Lately I’ve been obsessing about names. Usually I only worry about this when I’m trying to come up with an interesting name for a character. I search the baby-naming websites, scan articles in the newspaper, yes, even check the obituaries. But now, every time I hear an interesting name, I’m thinking about how I can use it in a book.
I started a file of names for future novels and my desk is littered with slips of paper. Sometimes I’ll read a book and wonder why an author chose a particular character’s name. I’m so caught up in the name I don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the book. This is especially true if it’s difficult to pronounce.
I hate it that Pushing Daisies has a character named Olive because it’s such a great name and now if I use it, I’ll feel as though I’m cheating. Once a name is used in literature, is it off limits? Not really. But will there ever be a stronger Emma than Jane Austen’s or a quirkier Owen than John Irving’s Meany? If your character has similar traits to another literary character, will you call her Scarlett or him Holden?
A character named Caitlin will have a different personality than a character named Martha, right? And she’ll likely be of a different generation altogether. One of my favorite names for a character (though I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember the book) is Minty. She was an agoraphobic loner who was pure and naïve. Makes sense, right?
So, if we're in the middle of a conversation and my mind starts to wander, it’s likely I’ll be thinking about how I can use your name for a character. And if you’ll be flattered or insulted!
What are your favorite character names?