Friday, January 11, 2008

A Boy Named Sue

I have a love/hate relationship with my name. Some days I feel like my parents could have been much more creative, you know? Other days, I feel incredibly grateful. I know what their second choice was.

When I was in grade school, I found out that my name meant "Crowned with laurel leaves." Pretty lame to a third grader. A few years later I checked a looser translation, and there was my name's redemption. Lori= Victorious. And they included a verse. Isaiah 40:31. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles..." very poetic. If my name couldn't be lyrical, at least its meaning could be right?

At some point I stopped noticing my name. It's just there like the freckle on my cheek or the color of my eyes. It's who I am, like it or not.

I recently had a run-in with names again. I've been plugging away on my current WIP for a while, mostly brainstorming, characterizing, plotting. I've written snippets of scenes and spent a lot of time daydreaming about the characters. Everything was falling into place beautifully and I was getting excited...

But my heroine wouldn't cooperate. She didn't make sense. I couldn't see her. I knew who I was trying to make her into, but she just wasn't coming alive. Then, after reading a friend's blog post, I knew what I had to do.

Her name had to go.

How many times as a child I dreamed of doing just that! I would have a princess name-- you know the kind with lots of A's and L's and Y's. Alysianna or something ridiculous like that.

It was amazing, this authorial power I suddenly had! I scratched out the character's name on her profile sheet and gave in to the heady power of re-naming bliss.

And so it was done. I found her name. It's not the loveliest name I've ever heard. In fact, she might even have issues with it. But when I wrote it down and watched the black ink dry on the notebook paper, I knew. It's her. She's alive. She's anxious to get to her life and wondering, I think, what took me so long.

How do you feel about naming your characters? Is it an adventure? A headache? Are you the kind of person who searches websites for meanings, so your character's name enhances the theme?  Or is naming more of a nuisance and all your characters would be named Mary and Joe if you could get away with it?

What principles guide your naming?

What are your favorite literary names? Least favorite? Why?

Please, satisfy my curiosity. If I can't do anything about my own name, I can at least have fun with well-chosen imaginary ones.


Betsy Ann said...

Great post, Lori! And I love your name! It fits you so well!! =)

I'm thr writer who scours baby websites and meanings before locking in on a name. Sometimes the name will pop up first and the story will go from there. Sometimes, its the other way around. But I love the naming process! Its sometimes stressful but so fun.

And if I thought it was hard for characters - wow, its realy hard for your own flesh and blood children!!! LOL

Georgiana said...

Oh, the power of changing a name!

I scour websites too, and I stress over it, and change the characters names like 50 times.

BTW, I never, ever, liked my name growing up, and even now I wish my parentals would have picked differently! Ugh.

Lori said...

See now, G, your name is exactly what I was looking for when I was growing up! Flowy and romantic and fun to write in cursive! Mine is four letters long and people were forever misspelling it. How hard can it be? L-O-R-I ?

But I've made peace with it now. LOL

And Betsy, I agree, naming your kids is waaaaay more pressure. But you'll do great. And whatever you name little Baby St. Amant, chances are she (or he) will grow into it. (Besides, I happen to know you picked very nice names! :) )

Cathy West said...

I absolutely hate picking names for my characters!! Sometimes they just pop right off the page and name themselves, other times, like you did, I'll write a few chapters and decide the name just isn't working for me.
I have a funny story about the book I finished recently. I originally wrote this story years ago and stashed it in the to be destroyed and never seen by human eyes again file. But the idea of the story came back to me, and I re-wrote it. However, I'd already used the name the original character had. He was called Jack, but that Jack had morphed into another Jack in a different story and I really couldn't convince him to come back and be the first Jack all over again. So I changed his name to Luke. And it took me FOREVER to get it through my head that I was writing Luke's story and not Jack's, even though they had once been the same person...oh my. But then one day Luke just showed up, seriously like knock my socks off showed up, and I KNEW him. I'm so glad he did. It just fits.
Umm....has anyone seen my medication?

pleasedw/thenameLydia said...

I love naming characters. The odd ones get odd names, and the normal ones get normal names. Very few of my characters are normal. :) I try to make my main characters have memorable names, which to me means not so run-of-the mill.

Sometimes the character will fully introduce himself/herself. Other times--especially if I need a foreign name--I'll have to search websites for it. Lots of times unusual names of acquaintances will stick in my memory waiting to be mixed & matched. In my last (first)novel, the surname of one of my characters came off a can of mushrooms. (I needed something French-sounding.)

My favorite literary names? Cruella DeVille & Scout Finch just popped into my head, but my all time favorites are still the whole gang in David Copperfield--David Copperfield, Mr. Peggoty, Ham, and Mrs. Gummidge, the Murdstones, Rosa Dartle, Tommy Traddles, the Micawbers, Dora Spenlow, Little Em'ly, and last but not least Uriah Heep. You don't even need descriptions w/names like those!

Lori said...

Atticus Finch and Boo Radley are two of my favorites! And Jay Gatsby and Robinson Crusoe. And Aramis Black and Thursday Next...

Deborah said...

Lori, you have a beautiful name!

When I name a character, so far, I haven't had any trouble. They just pop into my head. I'm sure it won't always be this way. But they always seem to fit the personality of the character, and are names that stand out, too. In my first novel, the hero and heroine have names that a co-worker from years ago named two of her children: Stasi (short for Anastasia) and Slade. I always thought they were names that characters in a book should have, and I made that happen.

Missy said...

I enjoy the naming process and have trouble fleshing out a character if the name isn't perfect. I have baby name books in my work area and I peruse the name website often. If a name catches my attention, I write it down for later use. For surnames, I usually look through the regional phonebook and if one jumps out at me I'll research its origins, etc.

I hated my name growing up. Melissa is my given name and that seemed to pretentious for my personality and Missy, my nickname, sounded to feminine (tomboy here). I've learned to be comfortable in my name. Both of them.

jenness said...

I love being a writer. I asked my mom if I could borrow a baby name book, and, knowing she longs for another grandbaby, I watched closely for a reaction. Not a blink of the eye. Not a hopeful smile. Nothing. Just handed over the book and kept on talking. LOL. She knows me well.
Betsy, I think Bean St. Amant works pretty well. :-)