Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Dog By Any Other Name

My friend is adopting a dog. She's been looking for awhile, checking Pet Finder, shelter sites and Craig's List. Finally, she's found just the one, an Australian Shepherd mix presently named Abby. There will only be a small alteration to the dog's name, the spelling changed from Abby to Abbey, so that her full name will be Abbey Road.
(Their last dog was named Penny Lane. Cute tradition, right?)

Please don't tell my friend but this dog does not look like an Abby, or even an Abbey, to me. I'm not sure why, or what I would name her instead. That would take a while to figure out.

I've found it's easy to change a dog's name, even radically. All you need is a lot of tasty bits -- cheese, meat, biscuits. Choosing the right name however can be easy, or hard, depending on the dog in question. Some just about shout their name at you upon first meeting. With others, it takes awhile to figure it out.

This goes double when it comes to naming characters. Sometimes their names come to mind easily, conjuring up an entire personality.  Other times, a name is much harder to settle on. I'll make a long list of possibilities and try them out in the text. To see if they grow on me...or grow on the character in question. Thank goodness for "Search and Replace" when the rejects don't work out.

While writing The Silence of the Llamas, the most recent title in the Black Sheep Mysteries, I had a tough time figuring out just the right name for a key character with a complex, and even contradictory, mix of traits. Some see him as hero and a man of integrity, a real leader. Others think he's crazy, even dangerous. He's eccentric, reclusive and very mysterious. Justin Ridley was the name I finally fixed on. The further
I got into the story, the more it felt right.

Justin Ridley also has two hunting dogs who play a minor role. The names Thelma and Louise popped into my head as soon as I pictured them, howling and tugging on their leads. That felt just right, too.  

With all due respect to William Shakespeare, I'm not entirely sure I agree that, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Not after we've come to know the flower by the word, "rose" and not by say..."bunion."

Names have power. Maybe even magic. Which is why some native cultures caution against divulging your true name to a stranger. A pseudonym I guess would be okay. Of those, I have plenty. But that's another story....


Chrystle Fiedler said...

I'm so happy to hear that a dog is getting a second chance. Thanks so much for sharing. As for the name - Abby - Abbey - a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Or something like that!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Characters' names are definitely important, Anne--and so are dogs' names. I've always taken a significant amount of time to figure out both, especially protagonists' and my beloved pets, since I'll be living with them for a long time. And whether or not Abbey's name fits her, I'm happy both for her and your friend!

Monica Ferris said...

A lot of authors will tell you they own a Name Your Baby book. Sometimes, when really stuck for a character's name, I reach for my copy and look for a name that doesn't echo another character's name in any way, that isn't unpronounceable, and - sometimes - whose meaning is a clue to the character of the person. Did you know one meaning of Arthur is Liar?

Anne Canadeo said...

Thanks for your comments! Do use the of book of baby names -- though I think I loaned it out to someone who was actually having a baby. And they never returned it.
I find a lot of good names
while reading movie credits. Yes, even in this age of fast forwarding everything, someone is still sitting there reading the credits. Just goes to show how boring my life is?! :)