A Rose by any other name…

Character names.

So, I totally stole this topic from Tina Ferraro over on Boys, Books, Buzz Blog. I think this is the second time I’ve done that. But I started to answer this in the comments, and it sort of got out of control, so I thought, hell, I’ll just make my own blog entry. So go click over there and give her some love, so she doesn’t hate me.

Anyway. How we name characters is a question we authors get alot (I know I do, and from Tina’s post, I guess she does, too.) They have to fit the character, and a lot of times they convey deeper meaning as well. Plus, you’re going to have to type them a lot, so it’s better to give it thought and not pick something you hate.

Maggie Quinn, the protagonist of the Girl vs. Evil series, was a character in search of a story, when I got the germ of the idea for Prom Dates From Hell. She as also named last name first. Her original concept was as a kind of female Kolchak (from the 70′s TV show, the Nightstalker, which was the inspiration behind X-Files), so oddly enough, she’s named after another 70′s rerun staple–Quincy (Quincy, M.E. was about a medical examiner who solved mysteries. This was before C.S.I., Kathy Reichs and Bones, etc., and so even cheesy 70′s reruns were addictive because there was nothing else like it. I also loved Columbo. These were all shown in rerun every afternoon, back when cable tv was only 20 channels or something.)

ANYway. Her first name “Maggie” just popped into my head from there. It went with the Irish/Gaelic flavor of the last name, it was both girlish but also rather down to earth. You’d expect it to belong to some hard working Irish washerwoman.

What’s really funny is that her full name, Magdalena, emerged as a complete surprise to me. Proof that my subconscious is often smarter than I am. By then I knew that Maggie wasn’t just going to be investigating your average zombies or vampires. She was going up against the forces of darkness, and she needed a name with some weight to it.

Oh, and further proof that our subconscious is weird? I was three books in when someone pointed out to me that Maggie and Lisa are Bart Simpson’s sisters. That is completely unintentional. Oops.

Justin is named after a rat in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I loved that book (and that movie, even though they were substantially different.) But Justin was a young, handsome and noble sort of rat in both, so it works.

Lisa, by the way, has no deeper significance. Except that, like Maggie, she doesn’t go by her birth name. And I’ll just leave you with that big ol’ teaser. :-D

Here’s my question: Do you think your name fits you, as a character in your own story? Personally, I’m on the fence on this question. Rosemarys are kind of all over the place as far as image. We have not fared well in American movies, though books have been kinder to us. (And video games, oddly enough. Though still the brainy girl, I notice.)

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8 thoughts on “A Rose by any other name…

  1. I can’t help but smile that this is the second time you’ve taken my blog lead. And no coincidence that we share an editor who somehow connects into how we both think!Great blog, and I loved learning how you choose your names.I think I’ve told you that I love your name. I would have given it to my daughter if it weren’t for my husband who had the audacity to have other ideas!My real name is Christina. But I learned long ago that very few people will call me that. It gets shortened to Christine, Chris, Chrissy…none of which I will turn around for. So at some point, I started simply started introducing myself as Tina…which was what my family called me. It worked. People call me that! =) Although I think it’s going to be really weird to be a little old lady named Tina. I might have to go back to Christina once I hit 65! =)

  2. “Kyle” means “narrow” or “straight.”My shoulders are quite broad, and I like the ladies. Doesn’t seem very accurate.But still, somehow, I think it matches me.For some reason, “Kyle” exploded in popularity from 1940 to 1980, going from about 700th most popular name to somewhere in the top 50.I have a friend who wants to give his kids names like Nicodemus and Aristotle. The kids may get beat up, but at least they’ll be geniuses!

  3. Although when I lived in Japan, I took the name 小川, which is both a common Japanese last name and can be translated as “strait.”I took as my Japanese first name 神, which means “a god.” Of course, Götz (the last name) is a German pet form for “God.”So it works out in the end!I think if a novel were written about me, my name would probably be Poindexter or something.

  4. Excuse me while I just have a fangirl explosion over how you named Justin. (And Kolchak!)I wish I’d decided to go by my middle name earlier. There are so many Christi’s out there! (Where I work, I was Christi 3 of 3 *sigh*)Naming is just the WORST part for me, I can start a story and pretty deeply in and still have characters going by letters or codewords. So this post was fun and helpful!

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