Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What's In a Name? by DL Larson

Each generation bestows their children with favorite names of the times. When I grew up, Debbie was much too popular, due mostly to Debbie Reynolds, a beauty queen type movie star from the 1950s. In my tiny class of twenty-four, we had three Debbies. We also had three Jimmys, probably due to the movie star, Jimmy Stewart. Now, many think of those as old-fashioned names.

The name Jennifer hit the top of the list when my kids were small. I read an article that Jennifer will soon be "dated" and fall off the popular name list. It will sound as antiquated as Mabel or Fred.

A study from the University of Illinois in Champaign discovered the names given to hurricanes have a direct effect on people too. Folks tend to fear male names over female names, even though history, in its quirky way, has had more severe female-named storms than male ones. On some level in one's mind, a female name seems less threatening than a male name. Victor or Victoria? Christopher or Christina?

A writer needs to consider a character's name with care. Will the name reflect the era of the book? If the name is too odd, will it affect the story's flow as the reader stumbles over the name each time it is used? If the name is too well known, it might comprise the story. For example, many writers won't use the name Hans, at least in my generation;it conjures up the Star Wars Trilogy with Hans Solo. I certainly don't want my readers thinking of another book while reading mine!

Sometimes a character will name him/herself. I find this disturbing and fascinating at the same time. My recent character, Francis, was not my pick. I wanted something more alluring. But Francis would not budge. He quit talking to me - I sure hope other writers understand what I mean by this! So, with much deliberation, I came back to Francis and I had a happy character once more. I've had two other characters tell me their names as well. I know, deep down somewhere, that voice in my head is my own, but gosh darn, it's stubborn. Crystal, a little girl, refused to be anything but Crystal. She will allow her daddy (Francis) to call her Crissy. Weird, I know.

I have another character who declared to be Tristen. I don't find Tristen to be particularly appealing or worthy of being an alpha male. But I've given up on trying to change his name.

My son and daughter-in-law are expecting a baby this summer. They have a name picked out and it's adorable. They are 99% sure they will call her their favored name, but they have reserved the right to change it if she doesn't 'look' like the name they've chosen. I understand their philosophy. Names are important.

At the library, we have a Parents Section, where many baby naming books are shelved. Dozens of times I've heard an expectant parent say, "I was thumbing through the book and the name jumped out at me. It's perfect!"

Once again, my two worlds collide, as I offer this advice: stop by your local library and browse through the baby naming books. Finding the perfect name for your character is nearly as important as naming a real-life child. The books usually describe the meaning of each name and their origin. That's important to know as well.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


  1. If I don't like the names of the characters, I won't read a book. I'm picky that way.

  2. That's the scary part, isn't it? Some names pull us in, other leave us cold.
    Thanks for stopping!