Names make a difference in novels. The wrong one risks turning off a reader. The name becomes part of the character’s persona. You really don’t want a soft sounding name for a hard hero, or a sweet name for a feisty heroine.
In the book now in progress, I had a particularly hard time. It’s a western, and since I’ve written a number of them, I’ve already used names that immediately come to mind. Wade. Ben. Rafe. Marsh. Nick. Ben. Ty. Seth. Usually short one-syllable names that summon images of strength, honesty and directness. I’ve also used Morgan (a family name dear to me), MacKenzie and Lobo. But I try to stick with my one-syllable names. Usually I know the name right from the beginning, but this time I’ve had a few problems. I’ve changed the name of my hero about six times. Nothing sounded exactly right for him. It still doesn’t and I’ll probably change again by the end of the book.
I had similar problems with my heroine. The heroine, raised by a gunfighter, mule skinner and gambler in a mining town, had to have a name both feminine and boyish. Yet I also have to be true to the times. No Blair or Brandy or even Allison.
Big problem with both. I’d already used up most of the names scrounged from my usual sources. I have used the names of most of my relatives. My mom is an exception. For some reason I have a difficult time calling my heroine Adelaide Lucille, and I really don’t want to use it for a lesser person, much less a villainess.
So I was more than a little bemused by an article several Sundays ago in “Parade” Magazine. Published in Walter Scott’s “Personality” column, the snippet was headed by this question: “What do you think of celebrities giving their kids far-out names?”
Not much, according to Mr. Scott. “Being the child of a famous person is hard enough without being saddled with a bizarre name.” His choice for the most outlandish name was that of Illusionist Penn Jillette’s daughter, Moxie CrimeFighter.”
But it mentioned a list of odd names on the internet. Since I’m constantly on the hunt for new and intriguing names, I thought I would explore it.
Internet, here I come. Maybe I could find a terrific name. Or two. I typed in “celebrity names odd.” Maybe I could steal a few.
Now I have to admit I’m an addict. I’m a internet addict. I’m a former newspaper reporter, and former reporters always have more curiosity than is healthy for any one human being. Once I get started on “research,” I don’t come up for air for hours.
So I immersed myself in a surprisingly large number of websites concerning odd odd names, and names in general.
I must admit I blinked several times. I knew, of course, that people sometimes give their children strange and mysterious names. My mother tells the story of a girlhood friend who was named Pansy Pansygrew. All the other children always taunted her, “two Pansies and only one grew.” Children can be cruel.
But I digress. While searching the treasure mine of names, I thought I would share some of my findings of unusual names with fellow writers. Here’s a sampling:
Director Robert Rodriguez, who was on an “alliterative’” roll, named his children Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue and Rhiannon (daughter). The last isn’t so bad. It’s rather pretty, but I would think she’ll spend a good part of her life spelling it for clerks and teachers and civil servants. And “Rogue?” How do you live up – or down – to that one?
I think I’ll pass on those.
Okay, what about Actresses Rachel Griffiths and Shannyn Sossamon who named their children Banjo and – take a deep gulp – Audio Science? Yep. It’s true. I think I’ll take a pass on that one.
Onward. The late British television personality Paula Yates named her four children Peaches Honeyblossom, Fifi Trixibelle, Pixie, and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. Yes, that last name really is four words. Fifi? Pixie? Peaches Honeyblossom?
My editor would run screaming into the street.
What about Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver’s kids – Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo?
Thank you, but no thank you.
Adelaide is beginning to sound very good. Surely, though, there should be a catchy usable name in one of these lists.
Jason Lee of “My Name is Earl” named his son Pilot Inspektor. Now that one really stumps me, just as it will every person who ever meets him. At least it’s unique. But I don’t think one of my heroes would appreciate the creativity.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple Martin after a drink, and their baby son Moses. I don’t think either will really appreciate the monikers. I know my heroine and hero would have lifelong trauma.
Some other celebrity children’s names: Reighbeau, Freedom, Kyd, Tallulah Belle, Moon Unit, Diva, and Dweezil (now Dweezi is really going to have a real problem with her parents – Bruce Willis and Demi Moore).
Enough! I quit. Maybe John and Judy and Jane and Harold will have to do. Adelaide Lucille is looking better by the moment.
How do the other writers here decide on names? I thought I could help a bit, but . . .
And now I have two questions for you, and I’ll send one of my westerns to the poster with the most interesting answer:
1. What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever heard?
2. How does a character’s name affect your opinion of him? Or her?