When I was growing up, I fantasized about being named…Nancy. Or Cathy. For real. Those were the names I coveted because I wanted to blend in with the Tiffanys and Susans and Lauras peppered throughout my middle grade life, not stand out as the one and only Karma. And Boy George
cursing bringing the world Karma Chameleon didn’t help things…
I have since come to love my name, and am grateful my hippie parents chose a unique and meaningful moniker — even if every other day someone in my Facebook or Twitter stream is commenting about how Karma is such a “b*tch.” Harsh.
With one real baby and four book babies, I’ve had the chance to do a lot of naming, and guess what? It’s not easy to choose the perfect name…for your baby in the flesh OR your characters. But it IS fun, if not a tad time-consuming (between the baby name and random name generator websites, this “research” can suck up some serious time). I also find my character names are influenced by whatever I happen to be binge watching on Netflix. In my second book (coming to shelves Fall 2016!), it wasn’t until I revised that I realized I’d named a married couple Lyla and Jason … guess who was many episodes deep into Friday Night Lights during drafting?
In COME AWAY WITH ME, my protagonist named herself. Tegan (pronounced Tay-gen) popped into my head when I was thinking about the character, and it stuck from the beginning. I pictured those who knew her best calling her “Teg” and the name felt unique enough to be memorable, but not so different it would be off-putting (I’m irked if I can’t be sure how to pronounce the protagonist’s name in a book I’m reading). Gabe, Tegan’s husband, also came to mind easily and felt right the moment I first wrote it down in dialogue. I still love their names, even after nearly two years of spending up close and personal time with them.
So there are a few rules I hold myself to when naming my characters. One, I don’t pull from people I know. I should clarify I DO pull traits from people I know, but their names are off limits (I’m a wee bit superstitious). Two, I’m careful to consider the details of my characters lives — decade they were born, their heritage, whether they are the nickname types — when choosing a name for them. Finally, I pick names I like — names I might have considered for a child if I had two dozen children to name (thank goodness I don’t have two dozen children…)
And because I’m always curious about this, I’ll leave you with a question: If you hate the protagonist’s name, does it ruin the book for you, or at least make it less enjoyable to read?