What’s in a name?

I have a strange preoccupation with names.  I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing (my mother claims to have the same issue), but it’s almost, at times, debilitating.

Allow me to explain.

When I’m trying to come up with a name, it’s not good enough to find a first and last name that fit well together.  Oh no.  My mind instantly starts exploring the moniker, turning it around, exploring how having that name may have had an effect on the character’s growth.  Perhaps it stems from being called “Buddy” for a good portion of my life (thank you, mom and dad), but even Steve wasn’t safe as a child (Who knew “Stevie Wonder Bread” could be so emotionally scarring?)  Even when kids weren’t using my own name against me, they still managed to call me “Doogie”.  As if insinuating I was child genius was somehow an insult (or perhaps they expected I, too, would someday be “outted” – Ha! Joke’s on you, high school bullies!  My sexuality remains ambiguous to this day!).

Somehow, this has turned into a bitch-fest about my enemies of old, but the original intent was to point out how your name can influence you later on in life.  I’ve actually come up with some back story for characters, based solely on their assigned moniker (even if the bulk of this information stays locked in my head, it affects how I write the character).  I wish it was as easy as looking in a baby book, finding a name that means something for real, and going with me, but for some reason, that method’s never worked for me.  Sometimes, I get so caught up on a name, I have a hard time pressing forward in the story until it all clicks together.  This is especially true when dealing with demons, fantasy creatures/people, aliens, etc.  The name has to be familiar enough for the reader’s mind to process, yet unique enough to sound otherworldly.

Even worse, are titles.  I can’t seem to work on a book unless I have a workable title nailed down.  I can change it part-way through if I come up with something better, but until I have a title, it’s almost as if the plot doesn’t exist.  The other day, I found some notes I wrote on a fantasy series I’ve been meaning to get around to, and they were dated back eleven years.  Eleven years, and I still don’t have a title.  I know the characters pretty well, the general plotline, the beginning, the end, the overall theme, but without the title, I just haven’t been inspired to flesh it out.  I don’t think I’ve ever written more than a few pages in support of the story, yet the characters have stayed with me all this time.

I’m going off on tangents now, but I guess the ultimate point of the post is, despite my claimed obsession with names, I still manged to end up with protagonists named Chance Taegen and Kharma, both from the same book.  Clearly, I don’t worry enough about the names I dole out to my characters.


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