22 January, 2013

Fiction Friday: What's harder, naming your child or your character?

Parents-to-be spend months and months making lists of names before their child is born. And often change the chosen name when they first lay eyes on their new bundle of love. 

People get their names for all kinds of reasons.  Parents fell in love in Richmond and named their daughter Virginia.  Maybe Mom-to-be loved Wuthering Heights and named her first born Heathcliff (now known as Chip or Bruiser).  We won't dwell on children named  Moon Unit, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, Pilot Inspector, and Tu Morrow.  Do parents want their kids to get the snot beaten out of them at school?
What about writers giving birth to a new character?

Writers take no less time and effort -- maybe more -- naming their characters.  Jane Marple could never be replaced by Zephinia Van Holstein-Hamburger.  Would you read a 300-page book whose protagonist was named Abner Grinch rather than Philip Marlowe? Probably not.

Names are chosen to evoke mental images. Those images may vary significantly among readers, but they are formed.  Our mental portraits of Miss Marple, Sherlock

Holmes, and Mike Hammer are probably influenced by the actor(s) who portrayed them on TV or in the movies.  But how about purely literary characters.  What does V.I. Warshawski look like? How about ex-Ranger Elvis Cole and his side kick, former marine Joe Pike?

Obviously Sara Paretsky and Robert Crais give us some visual clues, but we fill in the rest as best we can, with the associations we have for each name-- some we know or have met with the same name.

Just for fun, here are the names of three characters from my WIP.  I know exactly what they look like - I even have pictures.  What do you think they look like? 

  • Kensing Delaney
  • Abigail Bjorsohnn
  • Elise Fleming - nee Duvalle
So tell me, how hard was it to name your characters?

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