Monday, September 14, 2009

The frustration of names

Oh noes! Another post about character names! Somebody stop me!

Yes, okay, I put way too much thought into my characters' names. I happen to think it's important. I'm going to have to change the names of the two main characters in Bell-Men, and here's why.

Character 1: Cassandra Key is the current name of my main character. She goes by Cassie. Unfortunately, I have too many characters whose names end with an -ee sound, and that gets repetitive. Also, there's at least one other urban fantasy series out there whose main character is named Cassandra-goes-by-Cassie. Not to mention that the name Cassandra has baggage; like the character in Vivien Alcock's excellent YA book The Haunting of Cassie Palmer, Cassies are often people with strange otherworldly powers. Or at least they can see ghosts. My Cassie isn't like that, and I don't want to give the reader the wrong idea before the book even starts.

Character 2: Ivy, Cassie's roommate. I chose her name before I'd read any of Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan books, but now that I've read the first two (which I reckon works out to about 300,000 words in all--those are some long honking books), the name Ivy is permanently in my brain as equaling vampire. Also, it's weird that I independently chose Ivy as the roommate's name when it's the roommate's name in the Rachel Morgan books.

See? These are valid and important reasons to change character names! It's not just me liking to mess around with my characters' names. Really!

18 comments:

Anne Spollen said...

Oh, yes, I feel your pain. Right now, I have an hour to write and I'm blog surfing because I have changed the m.c.'s name at least four times in my WIP. And, yes, when I think of names I like (Bella was one, but then there's that little known Twilight girl) -- every time I think of one it's either used and has these huge associations or it's the name of one of our pets.

And yeah, the name is really important, especially in getting folks to stick with your book after they've picked it up.

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm so glad to hear you've changed your MC's name so often! I sometimes think I'm the only person who does that.

I have a double handful of names I really like that I want to keep using. I'd happily name all my female characters some variation of Elizabeth or Anna if I could get away with it. Or Terry. Terry seems to be my default name.

Hmm. Terry Key? Nah.

I think names are fascinating anyway. I'm actually looking forward to renaming mine (although I do kind of miss the name Ivy; I may tack it onto a minor character to "use it up").

Aaron Polson said...

My biggest name issue: students at school. I have sooooo many associations with many different names...yikes.

Naming my "real" kids (Owen & Max) was nearly impossible. (And my characters are real, too. I don't want them to take offense at my strict use of the word, "real")

Jamie Eyberg said...

I am horrible at naming characters. 'Nuff said.

K.C. Shaw said...

Aaron--I hadn't thought about the school-name association. That would be difficult. On the other hand, you know which names are really trendy with parents, which helps when you're writing for younger audiences.

Jamie--I am too apparently. If I wasn't, I wouldn't have to keep changing those names. :)

Natalie L. Sin said...

I believe you. I often struggle with names for my characters. It gets especially difficult when we don't speak the same language.

K.C. Shaw said...

That would be awkward, the language thing. Although actually, that would be an even better excuse to waste time looking up names online.

Carrie Harris said...

I change character names all the time. The last time, it was because I kept forgetting how I spelled Rachael... or Rachel... or whatever. I drove myself nuts over it.

So change em!

Alan W. Davidson said...

Hmm, perhaps you should change Cassie to Carrie (after you-know-who).

I've been putting character profiles together for my NaNo outline. The story is set here (on this island) and I think it's important to stick with surnames that are local. There are about a dozen local names that we hear all the time. It's a bit of a vaccuum.

K.C. Shaw said...

Carrie--I changed Ivy's name to Lark, but I don't know if I like it. So I'll just keep changing her name! I'm still stumped on Cassie's name. At least I can spell it.

Alan--We have certain local names here that I hear over and over. That's awesome that you're setting you nano story locally! That'll make for a very interesting background.

I did actually think about changing Cassie's name to Carrie, but there are no zombies in the book.

Danielle Ferries said...

Try www.babynames.com

K.C. Shaw said...

Thanks, I will. I've been flipping through my copy of The Baby Name Wizard with no luck (although I changed Ivy's name to Lark and then to Em, so I don't have to worry as much about the -ee sound ending).

Cate Gardner said...

I'm obsessed with my characters names, I have one in my current WIP that I'm itching to change and I'm hoping his personality will expand with it.

K.C. Shaw said...

The personality thing is part of why I want to change Cassie's name quickly. Pretty soon she's going to be acting like a Cassie and nothing else.

abrokenlaptop said...

Your names didn't bring up any connotations to my mind, if that makes you feel any better. They didn't carry any baggage. But if they bother you, then by all means, change them! (But I adore Ivy.)

I used to work in a home for male juvenile sex offenders, so there are a BUNCH of male names that are strictly off limits. I handed my husband a list of 60 or so names and I said, "We will never have a child named...any of these. I declare it to be so." He was awesome and totally agreed.

We ended up naming our son after a character of mine. Nikolai, but we call him Niko.

Mmmm, names. Looooove them!

-Mercedes

K.C. Shaw said...

Nikolai is an awesome name! Good choice. :)

I'm still stuck on a rename for poor Cassie. Heck, maybe I'll just stick with it. I'm over 15k in now and it's fitting her too well (which is what I was afraid of).

Carrie Harris said...

Alan and KC, you both crack me up.

K.C. Shaw said...

We aim to please, ma'am. :)