I’ve been wrestling with my wip lately and I think I’m losing. I started the story with such enthusiasm, I thought the words would just fly onto the page. You’d think by now I would know that never happens. 🙁
Part of my problem is the heroine’s name. I know, it’s just a name, get on and write the story. But names matter. If I don’t feel the name reflects the character’s personality, I can’t relate to her, even though she is my own creation. As I was struggling with my heroine’s name I came across a great article at Writer Unboxed, about the power of names. You can read the whole article here.
I had to chuckle at the writer’s aversion to certain names based on life experiences. I was tormented in school by a fellow named Guy. I could never use that name for a hero in a book, although he could probably show up as a villain.
Personal bias aside, I want my heroine to have a name that will resonate with readers. It needs to be unique but no so far out that no one will believe it on a fifty year old widow. I’m writing what I hope is a “seasoned” romance. This is a new genre for me and I’m still finding my way. My historical novels used lovely old-fashioned names like Emma, Louisa and Lottie. I connected with those characters immediately and their names fell upon them naturally. They fit so well with long skirts and sturdy boots, and strong-minded women.
I don’t want my heroine to sound as though she comes from another era. I don’t want her to sound too grandmotherly. I don’t want to attach too youthful a name to an older heroine. Of course, our reactions to names are purely subjective but there are guidelines. Jo Beverley used to advise using hard consonants in a hero’s name, to give the impression of strength. Jack, Devon, and Zeke are examples of strong names. Jo would also consider who the name looked on the page, choosing Karl instead of Carl, because the K had more presence.
The name needs to fit my character. When Raquel Welch died there were a number of news stories about her but the one that made me laugh was the tale of a movie mogul who thought her name too exotic and suggested she change it – – – to Debbie. As Raquel told the story on late-night TV she pulled a face and said, “Do I look like a Debbie?” The answer was patently “no.” Ms Welch was marketed as a sex symbol, an exotic, someone with jungle – like appeal.Raquel suited that image perfectly.
My character is a middle-aged woman, wallowing in her widowhood, keeping the world at arm’s length. The reader must see her vulnerability beneath the “I’m fine,” mask. She is currently named Carrie. It’s a good name, popular at the time my heroine would have been born, but it sounds juvenile in my ear. Not only that, it is the name Stephen King used for a very disturbed teenager! Not the association I want.
What about Karla? Or Kerry? Changing the C to K creates a whole other personality. I’ve just done a Google search and neither of those names pulls up a negative or famous connection.
What do you think, dear reader. Is a fifty-year old market gardener named Kerry believable? Relatable?
Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to read them.