Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in a Name? Aggravation, That's What.

Having vanquished my daily goal of 5,000 words fairly early in the evening, I decided to take a little break from World Enough and Time. It's passed the 60,000 word mark and is clipping along quite nicely, with a few problems working themselves out (with the help, of course, of Her Royal Highness, the Ever-Demanding Never-Forgiving Queen of All Things Unholy and Smutlike, Scarlett). So, with a little time on my hands, I thought I'd start tinkering with my next project.

I have my characters picked out. I'm nearly to the point of figuring out their story. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out their names. And by "trying to figure out their names", I mean "scouring a book of baby names, trying to find a decent name I haven't used before, and cursing loud enough to startle my pets". You see, my loyal blog minions, a character has to have just the right name.

First, I'd just like to say that if you advertise a book as having "55,000+ names" in it, it's cheating to have 10 variations of one name, 14 of another, and 20 of another. Cheating bastards. Anyway...

When I first started writing romance, it wasn't that difficult. There are a lot of names out there that I like, so I just grabbed one from the ether, stuck it on a character, and moved forward. Beat the hell out of making up new names like I did when I was writing fantasy.

Now, however, I've burned through most of my favorites: Liam. Jason. Connor. Dustin. Brandon. Christian. Ethan. Ian. Bastian. In theory, I could use them again, but the names become almost synonymous with the characters. It's like giving two of your kids the same name. Even with a different surname, it just wouldn't work. So, new names every time.

To complicate matters, Scarlett has snagged some of the cool names too, which I won't repeat here because I don't know if she'd want me to. Using one of hers would a) be like reusing one of my own and b) probably piss her off (and she can get mean).

So that also eliminates quite a few names. Oh, but the difficulty doesn't stop there.

I don't know if this is a problem for writers of other genres, but erotica presents one particular spot of bother with names: using the name of someone you know. Look, my genre of choice makes family gatherings awkward enough without having to explain why any character involved in any kind of sex scene shares a name with any relative. So there goes Eddie, David, Daniel, Kevin, James, Mike, Patrick, and plenty of other common names.

Then of course, there's my notorious celebrity crushes. On that off chance I ever become famous myself and, by some twist of fate, meet one of them in person, I'd really rather not have the awkward discussion of "Um, about that one character..." That, and, well, let's get real. Even though I really, really like the names and always have, anyone who knows me is going to raise an eyebrow if I name a love interest Jared, Colin, or Shannon. So, scratch those three off the list, along with Hugh, Gerard, and Joaquin.

And let's not forget the names that are also double entendres. I mean, could you really keep a straight face reading a sex scene involving Lance, Randy, Rod, Peter, Dick, or Willy? I might as well just call him Horny McLongshlong.

So now, most of the names I like have been used. Either by me, Scarlett, a celebrity, the slang vernacular, or some inconsiderate parent naming their kid.

Now you see why naming characters presents such a headache now. *sigh* At this rate, in a year's time, I'm going to have to go back to my old standby from my fantasy writing days: Making up names. Either that, or I'm just going to bite the bullet, accept that family gatherings will always be awkward, and just start using names of people I know.

I shall now remove my tongue from my cheek, get back to the book of "55,000+" *cough*bullshit*cough* names, and bestow names upon my characters...


  1. You should check out the baby name finder on ivillage

    there is also this site where you can narrow your search a bit so if your lead is Irish you can look up Irish names

  2. Have you tried Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon? 25000+ names, their origins and meanings. Not as many as your baby book, but I don't think they count the doubles...
    Plus, surnames and if you want a Greek name for your villian and a Celtic name for your heroine and a Swedish name for your hero, you can find them.... just a thought