Thursday, October 2, 2008

Name that name

Some writers feel very attached to names; they choose carefully to reflect each character's personality and potential. Others worry about characters sharing names that could be confused, or beginning with the same letter, or they name characters after people they know.

I am so not attached to names, I forget them, even in person, which is terribly embarrassing. I put it down to sleep deprivation, or possibly the spaghetti with meat sauce I ate so much the year I lived in England, before anybody knew about mad cow. I remember details, like whether or not she likes chocolate or he knows how to play badminton, but names? I wish. I have to keep a list as I go along, if I'm writing a novel. If I think of a name I like better, I change.

My opinion: names have little if anything to do with the people who bear them. They reflect the dreams and values of others - their parents, the friends who give them nicknames, the teachers who got them mixed up with somebody else.

All of which is to say that today I will be writing about the old lady coveting her neighbour's armchair, which means I'll be procrastinating with the US government and the phone book. Wish me luck!


Kathleen Taylor said...

I'm attached to character names and rarely rename them, but I learned early on not to get too fond of book titles. I'm 2 for 10 on working titles making it to the covers of the books (and 0 for 4 on knitting books- though with the knitting books at least, the new titles are better than my old ones)(not so much with the mysteries).

It's fascinating to look at names by year- I was never in a class with fewer than 3 Kathi/Kathy/Cathys. My classmates were Lindas and Pattys and Sues and Julies. If you hear those names now, you automatically know that you're going to see women of a certain age.

Mary Keenan said...

Once I was in the waiting room at a doctor's office - this was a doctor who usually sees much younger patients than me, btw. He came out and said, "Mary?" and I looked around to make sure he meant me and not somebody else. He said, "Oh please. Nobody names their kids Mary any more. I definitely mean you." So now I'm waiting for "Mary" to be the hot new trend in names, after new parents have worked their way through the days of the week and every fruit and vegetable.