Saturday, June 13, 2009

What's in a Name

I went to Border’s to sign stock of By Hook or By Crook. I can never leave a bookstore empty handed and besides I had a nice 25 percent off coupon. I picked up a dictionary of names and another book that promises more than 30,000 names from around the world. And there was the Edward doll from Twilight. What can I say, I collect odd dolls and I really liked the book and movie. What else can you call a collection that includes Barbie the detective, Star Trek characters and a Ron Howard doll from Happy Days among others?

I already had a couple of books of names, but they are light weight compared to these new ones. Naming characters is a big deal. What you choose says a lot about their age, background, nationality and what soap operas were popular. When I was writing a picture book for a workshop I took at University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I wanted to find a name for my dog main character. He was a dog with an attitude who I was sure would roll his eyes at me if I tried to give him any sort of cutsy name. When I saw Monty in a book of names, I knew it belonged to him.

I was reading the Sisters in Crime Newsletter and Charlaine Harris talked about the care she takes in picking out names for her protagonists. She said she might get other character’s names by thumbing through the phone book, but not her main character. She picks their names to be reflective of their lives. As an example, she mentioned choosing Lily for a character needed a tender name despite her tough, practical exterior.

I wish I could say I had some complicated reason for giving Molly Pink her name. Actually it just popped in my head one day and I knew that was her name. It was only later that I realized I had some kind of unconscious thing for names with color. I honestly didn’t notice Molly Pink, Barry Greenberg or Blue Schwartz all had colors in their names. At first anyway. With Blue as I was writing I realized both her names were colors. Schwartz is German for black. I ended up incorporating the bruise aspect of her black and blue name in the book.

The cool thing about the books I got today is that they have international names, so if I have say a Korean character, I can find an authentic name. It’s also fun to read what the names mean. The name dictionary seems pretty authentic in the derivation’s it offer. Better than another book I have that tries to determine meaning by what celebrities have a particular name. I just have to be careful not to get so enamored in reading through all the lists that I use up all my time.

A yarn update. I started knitting with the yarn that was such a nightmare going from hank to ball. So far, it seems to be very nice to work with. It survived the test of unraveling and didn’t get tangled and I was able to start over with no problem other than being annoyed that I had to start over. I’ll post a picture when it’s done.

The Printers Row Book Fair was lots of fun despite the cold and rain. I am sure glad I brought a sweater, a jacket and an umbrella. A lot of nice people stopped by the table and bought books. Julie Hyzy did another great job of organizing the Mystery Writers of America Booth. Margery Flax from MWA supplied us with brownies and the warmth of her personality. And I discovered an amazing yarn store down the street from the fair.

It should be warmer and dryer this Sunday at noon when I sign as part of the Los Angeles Romance Authors book fair at the Encino Barnes & Noble.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Names are important to me, too, Betty. I've collected some books on names, including some that list international ones as well as more common ones in the U.S. I usually will pick a name for a character that seems to fit, then Google it to try to either use a name that belongs to a lot of real people or, if only a few, at least doesn't belong to someone with a similar background to that particular character.

Betty Hechtman said...

I never thought of doing that, Linda, but it sounds like a good idea.

Marlyn said...

Oooh, I've never seen a detective Barbie. I'm going to have to find one.

Marlyn said...

BTW, will you be signing down towards Long Beach at all?