Hi everyone! Recently, I got the chance to work with Paula Stokes, author of the fabulous THE ART OF LAINEY–which is being released on May 20, 2014. She was nice enough to do a great guest post about the characters and their names behind THE ART OF LAINEY. Check out the book below!
Paula Stokes: The Art of Naming Characters and Learning About Them
Hi! Paula Stokes here, author of THE ART OF LAINEY. Eli invited me to the blog to talk about names—specifically, how I go about naming characters. This is actually something no one has ever asked me before, so I am going to share with one of my biggest secrets:
Most of my characters name themselves.
Seriously! I didn’t pick Lainey from a list or a song or another book (though I do love Laini Taylor’s books—who doesn’t?) I just envisioned a character and she told me her name was Lainey. I didn’t consciously think about her looks either. She entered my head with freckles and strawberry blonde hair. I knew she played soccer and was tall and had muscles, and that she compensated for what she perceived as a lack of natural femininity by wearing lots of makeup and super-girly clothes. Don’t judge her yet, okay? She figures out what matters throughout her story.
As the story unfolded, I learned more about her name—that Lainey was a derivative of Elaine and that Lainey had adopted it in high school because she thought it sounded more fun. I realized her real name was Glinda and that Elaine was a middle name, but that Lainey never told anyone that because she found it humiliating that her mom named her after the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. I know all of this because Lainey told me, and if that sounds vaguely schizophrenic, well, I think this is how things happen for most writers.
So that what about the exceptions, the characters who don’t tell me their names. Like every girl who doesn’t like her real name very much, I have a list of names I’d rather have. Some of these are Sydney, Simone, Yvette, Piper, Fiona (*cough*), Parvati, Trinity, and a few others I am jealously hoarding because I plan on using them in future books. I will occasionally assign one of my favorite names to a character only if:
1. It fits the character and the book.
2. There aren’t 17 other more famous books out using the same name.
There is a character named Trinity in The Art of Lainey. This name works perfectly because Trinity is one of my favorite characters, and therefore deserves the name of one of my most beloved fictional heroines. Also, the book comes out in 2014 and Trinity is 14 years old. Which means if her mom saw The Matrix back in 1999 or 2000 and liked it as much as I did, this is perfect timing for her to name her daughter Trinity. There is a character named Parvati in Liars, Inc. She is half-Indian and Parvati is one of my favorite Indian names. I don’t know the actual meaning, but to me that name says “beautiful and fierce” and this fits my character.
There are also a few instances where I will force a name change.
1. If I inadvertently make two or more names that sound similar. The Art of Lainey had a Micah and a Michaela at one point. And then a Ken and a Kendall. Those both went away.
2. If the name or spelling is distracting for no reason. The Art of Lainey had a character named Jayson, who got the Y in his name from a rapper he liked. When I cut the line about the rapper in revisions, I also cut the Y because I figured to have it for no reason might seem grating. Maybe it’s just me, but books full of distracting names or weird spellings sometimes detract from my reading experience. As much as I love The Hunger Games and understand the reasoning behind the author’s naming conventions, Peeta will always sound like a space alien to me.
3. If I negatively homage a friend. Liars, Inc had a character named Crystal who wasn’t very nice and met a not very nice end. But then I met a lovely blogger named Crystal who became my friend, so I changed that name. Obviously if the book was already at the printer, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. Most books have villains who are going to share names with at least a few of your readers, and that’s just life.
What about you? Are you a writer? If so, how do you name your characters? If not, what is your favorite character name of all time?
Thanks so much to Paula Stokes for doing this guest post and I’m really looking forward to her books!