Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's in a name?

by A.G. Howard (originally posted on ModgePodge Bookshelf)

Sometimes writers take great pains to match their character names with something symbolic in the broader scope of story.  Other times, names don’t always have a meaning. The author just knows their characters—who they are, the role they’ll play, maybe even a head shot of what they look like—and they hop onto Internet databases and skim through baby names. The right ones will simply jump out. Hard to explain, but a writer's gut just knows what name is right.

In the case of SPLINTERED, I used a few names that actually had meaning and served a purpose. A couple belong to less traditional "characters" without whom there would be no book to begin with.

First, the name of the book itself. Once I sold my book, I went in knowing I might have to forfeit their original title for one that the publisher deemed more fitting or hook-ish. I felt very blessed that didn't happen. Although it might have if I’d gone with some of my original ideas:
  1. Through the Splintered Glass
  2.  All Things Dark and Dismal
  3.  Malice in Wonderland

Upon googling the titles to make sure they’d never been used, I realized the third one was out of the question. It was a movie with a small but faithful following.   Out of the two remaining titles, the first one kept calling to me.
After brainstorming with my crit partners, I settled on shortening that one to simply “SPLINTERED” for the following reasons:
  • It’s Hook-ish.

  • Alyssa (my MC) thinks she's going crazy like all of the women in her family in the beginning. She refers to it as her sanity being splintered.

  • The looking glass she steps through is cracked and splintered.

  • The Wonderland "fairytale" that she finds waiting for her is a splintered and warped version of the Lewis Carroll tale.
SPLINTERED was the natural choice, and to my relief, my publishers thought so, too. :)
Next, the name of the town in which the story is set (before Wonderland makes an appearance, that is).  The real Alice Liddell’s middle name was Pleasance. So for a spin on that, I decided to set the story in the made up town of Pleasance, Texas (because I’m a TX girl). So, the kids attend Pleasance High School.
Alyssa’s name is of course a variation of Alice, as is her mother Alison’s, and her grandmother, Alicia’s.
Jebediah "Jeb" Holt, Alyssa’s secret crush / best friend, came about his name the way most of my character’s do. It just seemed to fit him. The name felt strong, but at the same time approachable and trustworthy. The characteristics any best pal or boyfriend should have.
And last, but certainly not least, Morpheus, the enigmatic bad boy from Wonderland.
Fan Art Depiction by Riley R.
His name was chosen for three reasons:
1. In Greek mythology, Morpheus is the god of dreams with the ability to take any human form and appear in other people’s dreams. This is fitting for my Morpheus since he shares that magic.

2. The morpho butterfly has brilliantly blue wings, and Morpheus's hair is blue.

3. The final contributing factor is a bit of a spoiler, so you'll have to read the book to discover it. ;)



Jordan Dane said...

Great explanations, Anita. You're so right about all the different ways authors pick out names. I can see that since your book is inspired by a classic tale, you'd have a challenge to stay true to certain aspects, to give a nod to it.

In my latest series, I ran a contest where two winners (a guy & gal) won their names being a character. O'Dell became a villain in book #1 Indigo Awakening & Caila is an Indigo child with the psychic ability to plant memories in book #2 Crystal Fire. I got lucky that their names weren't ordinary.

Great post.

Jamie Manning said...

I love getting these bits of insight into how a book is/was written--they're very inspiring!

I did the same as Jordan and had a character name contest, and the winner chose a name of a character I already have (the odds!). But, it's still a fun way to go!

Great post!

Jordan Dane said...

Hey Jamie. The fun part on the contest winners was getting a list from them of unique things about their personalities that I had permission to incorporate into the story. I got great stuff & that made it even more fun. It can definitely be a great way to go for character inspiration.

I also have been known to use a relative's name now and then. I never tell them. Surprise!