What’s in a name?

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

~Here’s my granddaughter with the puppy I decided to keep from the litter the neighbor’s dog had in our garage. She’s a very cute puppy and my daughter-in-law named her Latte. Since I have to admit that didn’t sound like a puppy name to me, I started calling the pup L.T. But that doesn’t fit either, so we’re having a puppy naming time in our family. I get the final vote, but the grandkids and everybody else can voice a suggestion. Me and the dog-loving granddaughters have heard and rejected Spot and Pug and Dandy. Cookie is on the table and so is Sadie. We tried a bunch of names out on her yesterday, and she paid absolutely no attention to any of them. “Puppy” still gets her attention some of the time. Especially if I’m opening the dog food bag.
~I like thinking about names. A writer has to do that a lot. There are always people to name in a story and not just the major characters. Everybody has to have a name. Maybe for some of the minor characters, the name won’t matter that much, but then sometimes the name is how you get people to bring up a mental image of a character without having to add a lot of details. A Josephine brings forth a different image in a person’s imagination that Miranda. Dusty than Wilton. Jake than Jeffrey. So a writer has to think about the character’s personality before she hangs a name on him or her.
~I’ve never actually counted the total number of characters I’ve had to name in one book, but that might be interesting to know. Then again it might make my mind go completely blank and I wouldn’t even be able to think of my own name.
~I’ve done posts on naming characters before. I think it’s an important first step in getting to know my characters. The name has to fit. The name has to sound right, and the name has to be right for the historical era. In my current work in progress, the heroine’s name is Lacey. I didn’t have any problem coming up with that name. She sprang into my mind and was Lacey at once. Lacey completely. She is Lacey. Then I started noticing there are a lot of Laceys out there in fiction right now, but she’s still Lacey.
~Being that sure of a character’s name doesn’t happen that often for me. Usually I waffle a while on the names of my main characters. Sometimes change the name two or three times before I start my story. And sometimes without even realizing it, I pick a famous name or a name that sounds very similar to a famous name. The name will roll off my imagination’s tongue easy with no sharp edges but then I’ll realize why the name sounds so good – or an editor will point out the obvious. When that happens, that name has to be changed for the good of all. The character, the eventual readers, and the writer. Not to mention the editor.
~But I like coming up with names. I’ve worn out a couple of baby name books. I’m sure I could come up with a name that I like for the puppy. But first the grandkids can have some fun thinking up names next weekend when we’re celebrating Christmas.
~I celebrated Christmas with a group of Central Kentucky writers today. The Danville Theater group was performing an original play “Claus and the King” written by Amy Barkman, a member of our writers’ group. All but one of the actors were kids and they did a fabulous job acting out the play and singing the many songs that Amy also wrote. I don’t know too many other things that can get a person more into the Christmas mood than watching kids acting out a Christmas play.
~I’m going to need to be in a Christmas mood this coming week so that I can do the baking and cleaning and shopping and cooking and … well, you get the idea. My goal is to have most everything done before Saturday so that I can enjoy my family all being together for Christmas.
~I hope you have a great week with the names of your loved ones dancing in your head like treasured sugar plums. I’m going to be sending out a Christmas newsletter soon, so if you’re not signed up for that and would like to be, just go to my website, www.annhgabhart.com and click on the newsletter link. And thanks for reading.