Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Names are so tricky for me!  Not coming up with them--that's a breeze.  All that fifth-grade practice drawing elaborate family trees full of K or L names has paid off.  Kendall, Kalliope, and Karousel are always there for me to draw on.

No, it's remembering names.  I read about four Harry Potter books before I heard someone pronounce 'Hermione.'  And it hadn't bothered me one bit.  She was the 'H' girl in my head.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to sit quiet at book club because I can't figure out who they're talking about when they use, you know, the character's NAME.  I need them to say, 'The one with the scissors' or 'The loud one' for me to follow along.  I read a fair amount of Russian literature growing up, and what with the crazy nicknames and the patronymics, I was never quite clear on whether we had six characters in a scene or one.  Not quite sure why I kept reading without clearing that up.  I'd like to think that now it would bother me.

But probably it wouldn't, because I can't keep names straight IN MY OWN NOVELS.  Yes, that's right, characters that I dream up and stuff with aspirations and hopes and loves are basically nameless to me.  I can't tell you how many times my sister (my first and most enthusiastic reader) or a critique partner will make notes in the margin saying, "Wait, this character is here?"  Nope, usually not.  Usually I just grabbed one of the female names in the book and stuck it there, and it was the wrong one.

Why, oh why?  I'm great with names in real life.  They're important.  I even take pains not to misspell someone's name when I enter it into my phone (because Lindsey and Lindsay surely care which spelling I'm looking at when they call).  But in my OWN BOOKS, I'm toast.

I'm writing a mystery set in the early twentieth century now, and it's mighty slim pickings for male names.  They hadn't hit our modern creativity of rhyming names with 'Aiden,' so the ones I picked are fairly generic.  AND THEY ARE ALL THE SAME IN MY HEAD.  I keep writing John's scenes with William's name and sticking Walter into the middle of Roy's conversations.

I bet my sister will clear them up one day.

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