May 30, 2010

A rose by any other name . . .

Character Names

I’ve very conscious of my character’s names. Especially now because I’ve read a critique partner’s manuscript without names in it. Just Hero, Heroine, etc. A little unnerving.

But I love naming characters. It’s like naming children. And I did name my children as my husband will tell anyone who will listen.

Jennifer was the name of the heroine in the first book I wrote. She had to have an Irish last name because she has red hair. I used O’Grady and her real father was a cop in Philadelphia. My father had many uncles who were cops there and if you get stopped by an Officer Redding in the City of Brotherly Love, I am probably related to them. But it won’t get you out of a tickt.

She isn’t my favorite heroine, but it’s the first book I published so it will always have a special place in my heart. Here hero was Sean. That’s a strong name. He was a strong, silent type so it fit. His last name, Guadette, is my mother-in-law’s maiden name. It’s French.

When my kids were younger I was involved in a Mom’s club. I used some of the kid’s names in my books. I asked the parents first, of course, and the character didn’t resemble whose name I used.

I have a manuscript called Blonde Demoltion. The heroine is Mallory Sage. This is the daughter of a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other since her Mallory and my son #2 were probably two years old. They are twelve now. The character Mallory’s hero is Trey. I have no Earthly memory of why I picked that name. But he’s McCrane, a good Irishmen. See a trend here?

Incendiary’s heroine is Chelsea. Remember On Golden Pond. Jane Fonda played a Chelsea and I really liked that name. I’ve kept it all these years and finally used it. James is her last name. I think that was one of those flipping through a phone book moments. Her hero is Jake, another strong name. Campbell is his last name. Uh, Irish?

Stone Feeney is a minor character who is a hero in another book. Stone. Probably Stone Phillips. I thought he was cute on television.

The best story I have is for a book that hasn’t been published yet. One of my favorites that I’ve written. Along Comes Pauly is a romantic comedy. The Pauly in the title is Paulo Gabagool Vincenzo. He’s Italian and from New Jersey where the story is set. Paulo is the name of a friend of mine’s, son. Paulo’s best friend in the book: Carmela Loschiavo. I needed a very Jersey Italian name for a character and once again I borrowed one from a friend’s child. He still bugs me about when the book will be published. (As if I have control over that.)

I don’t like when I don’t know how the name is pronounced. Aileen or Niall for instance. (Irish huh?). They don’t look like how they are pronounced. Neither does Sean, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me.

What do you think about character names? Have you ever read a book where you hated the character’s name?

Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. When she isn’t writing she works per diem for her local hospital. Her next book Incendiary will be out this year. It’s about a firefighter trying to prove he didn’t commit arson.

You can find me on the web:


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Chris. Welcome. Great blog. As far as last names go, I usually just look around my office at the books on the shelves and pick a name, unless there's a real reason to chose a particular name.

I discovered the hard way that names do count for secondary characters. I named a heroine's female friend Leslie without much thought. Now I want to write her story, but I dislike the name....well, don't dislike it, but I'd rather she had another. However, I can't change it now. The first book is

Lisa Marie Wilkinson said...

I find that a well-chosen character name will make a book more memorable for me as a reader. Think of Valentine Michael Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land and Scarlett O'hara from Gone With the Wind as examples. Naming characters can be a double-edged sword,though, because if it's a name I cannot sound out in my head or have an easy time remembering, the name can throw me out of the story when I'm reading, which we all know is a bad thing!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Yes, I hate names in stories that I cannot figure out how to pronounce. It throws me off every time I see it and that ruins the story - I try to think of a way I would like to pronounce it, but it doesn't work. Am I just plain weird or is this common?

I actually make up names or find them on our family tree. It shocks me sometimes to find out the names I make up, are actually someone's name. It is fun to try to match names to nationalities, though. My heroes seem to end up being Scottish so that one seems to be easy. It's the heroines that I need to pull out of the family tree and maybe tweak a little such as Miranda becoming Marinda.

Really enjoyed reading your blog and getting to know you today.

Mary Ricksen said...

I have read names that didn't do much for me.
But most authors seem to be interested in grabbing us even with a name!
Some names just don't fit too!