So this week’s posts are a slight copout. Just a slight one, I swear! I was thinking recently about some older posts on my blog that didn’t get a lot of page views since they were written when I had about five blog followers. Should I repost some of the good ones? I’m still not entirely sure, but there were two posts in particular that had a common theme, and I’ve had a third one in the back of my mind that I've never written, so I thought, why not revisit them first?
So this week is dedicated to the freaky name coincidences that have happened to me when working on my novels. I’ve learned that when it comes to naming characters, sometimes you have no choice in the matter. Sometimes weird things happen.
This first post was from September 2011 (yikes!). I’ve tweaked it a bit because I felt some of the statements about my characters were no longer true (and it was waaaaaay too long). But anyway, here it is:
What’s in a Last Name?
Finding a name for a character can sometimes be excruciating. I can spend hours looking over baby name websites or trying to find different meanings and etymology, just trying to find that one perfect gem of a name that will sum up the entire character. Every once in a while, though, I don’t have to do research or make a list of names to choose from. Sometimes a character’s name simply pops into my head without me even having to think about it at all. I find this usually happens when I’ve created a story that I’m very passionate about, one that I won’t be able to let go. I think it’s because these characters are special to me, almost as if they’re real, so of course they already have names.
But in the case of two characters, something even stranger happened when I tried to give them last names.
When I was fourteen, I started a fantasy novel called Bleeding Life, which I would go on to write three times and eventually be forced to shelve for various reasons. I feel it will always be in the back of mind until I actually finish it. When I was creating the characters, eventually I had decided upon every single detail about them, including middle and last names. But something didn’t sit right with me about my narrator, Amber’s last name—Johnson. It was too boring, too generic. I decided to change it.
Back in those days, I decided on last names by flipping blindly through a phone book. If I liked the name I found, I went with it. So, the logical next move was to go back and pick a new last name for Amber. I grabbed the phone book and closed my eyes, thumbed through the pages and opened the book in my lap. I ran my finger down the page and stopped, opening my eyes. My finger was pointing directly at “Johnson.” After a few seconds of shock, I slammed the phone book shut and put it away. There was obviously no fighting this. I had given Amber a specific identity, and to change it now would mean changing who she was as a character. And she had other plans in mind.
For my current
obsession WIP, Uneven Lines, I had another strange occurrence
when trying to figure out a last name for my narrator, Jordan (you know him,
right? He hangs out around here…). When I first started developing the novel, I
had it floating in the back of my head that his last name would be Palmer. I
wasn’t quite committed to it, but it was the only name that had stuck even a
little bit. I figured I could keep searching, maybe find something better.
But one day my boyfriend was driving me home, and I was sort of idly looking at street signs on the left side of the road when we came across a street named Jordan Dr. “Oh, haha,” I mused to myself. “I want to live there!” As we drove on, I was already forgetting about it when we came across the next street sign: Palmer St. I did a sort of double take as we zoomed past. It was like a moment of clarity. You see? the universe was saying. You were right all along! Don’t go around changing what’s already perfect!
Were both of these instances a coincidence? I don’t like to think so. The circumstances were just too strange, that I Just happened to be looking at street signs that day, that my finger just happened to land on that particular spot in the phone book. So yes, on some level I believe that these characters haven taken control of their own existences. If I try to change them, the universe will find some way to show me that I’m wrong. And ultimately, it’s all about trusting my first instincts, even if it’s only for a name.
Anything strange like this ever happen to you? Be sure to come back on Wednesday for the next freaky name coincidence!