Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Is a Rosa a Rose?

Writers often get asked where they get their ideas, but I think a better question is where characters get their names.

I, for one, would like to know that. Why does a character called Flynn have a certain je ne sais quoi and a character called Finn have another something entirely?

Why is a Rosemary different from a Rosemarie or a Rosa different from a Rose? Why is a Raul one sort of hero and a Raoul a completely different guy? Is there more than an added vowel going on here? If so, what?

I was going to bemoan the fact that in The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp had nothing to say on the topic, but that's not true. When she discusses the Broadway show she did based on the music of Billy Joel, Movin' Out, she talked about one of the hardest parts being finding the right title.

Why? Because it set up expectations. It gave her focus and it gave her audience clues about what to expect. It was as much about what she didn't call it "a musical" as what she did -- simply using the title.

It's the same thing, I think, with characters. The right name resonates. It creates expectations in me as a writer and to some degree in readers. A name can make people comfortable. It can call to mind character traits. It can affirm or, sometimes, it can confound.

It's a little tricky writing for such an international market as Harlequin Presents, because names that "work" in America or "work" for me, may not work for an English reader or a Japanese or a Brazilian one. Lots of times I don't know this. I just blunder ahead using the name that seems right to me.

But sometimes when I'm looking for a name, I talk to people who know more about what works in a particular area than I do. Flynn's brother was a case in point.

I wanted him to be called Eamon. Abby Green shrieked with horror and said, "No! No, no, no." Or words to that effect.

She threatened all sorts of dire things if I named him Eamon. So I didn't name him Eamon. And just so I didn't take any chances, I killed him off as well (though I changed his name before I did it in case I want to sneak an Eamon in there later when she's not looking!).

Somewhere there is an Eamon waiting for me to tell his story (and no, Abby, he's not a 50 year old farmer in a cardigan who still lives with his mother!). I just have to find him.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out the name for the young woman who shows up in chapter nine. I need a classy classic sort of name. An Anglo or Anglo-Irish name.

I've drug out all my name books, looking. She's got light blonde hair, shoulder length, is delicate looking but capable of running an army if she needs to. She's soft spoken. Her family motto ought to be: Duty calls and I answer."

Anyone got any suggestions?


Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Ellen. Could be called Nell.

Possibly Mary.

I am going through my dh's grandfather's sisters here.

01 May, 2007  
Blogger Kate Walker said...

Well, if you killed off Eamon then maybe Flynn's brother could have had that name - but then Earl Eamon or Eamon the Earl has a certain je ne sais quoi - but the 'quoi' isn't exactly Presents.

As to your young woman needing a name how about stealing from young Ms Green and making her Abby ? OK the hair's a different colour but soft voice and 'capable of running an army if she needs to' - oh yes!


01 May, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anne you will name a character Eamon at your peril I swear, he is a fifty year old bachelor farmer in a cardigan and he does live down in the west of Ireland in a little cottage with the mammy. I'm not joking, loads them exist here. He is a romantic hero to his sheep only.
Now, as for your blonde who can run an army, well Abigail might not be bad, although I think Abby might be a bit chummy?! Also it is a very anglo name. What about Julia? Or Tara? Ita is also the Irish version of Ida. Kayla. You could go really Irish with either, Sorcha; Sadhbh (pronounced Sive); Aisling; Roisin...or Cait...the Irish version of the lovely Kate...oh another lovely one is Cara...
should give you some ideas anyway and next time I see you I'm going to hypnotise Eamon out of your head!
x Abby

02 May, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Rowan?


02 May, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Good suggestions, all. Thanks. I'll take them under advisement and see who she feels like being. I'm leaning toward Abigail (with a brother called Eamon!)

She doesn't have to be Irish necessarily. Still sorting that out.
But of course, with a brother called Eamon, she probably would be!

02 May, 2007  

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