Jessie: Thinking thoughts of spring and keeping an eye out for robins, crocuses and skunks
Do you have a dream job? I don’t necesarily mean something glamorous or that even would pay the bills, but rather the sort of thing that intrigues you or makes you smile? For me, one that always makes my list is that of a color namer. I think I would love to be in charge of naming lipsticks and paint chips and richly dyed yarns.
I have no idea how anyone would get such a job besides starting one’s own line of yarns or paints or lipsticks. Until I figure it out I’ve found that being a writer is at least as good. I get to name all sorts of people, places and businesses. I can even give characters products to name if I so choose.
Naming feels magical. I’m not sure how other writers end up doing it but names often come to me fully formed with a character attached. I’ll be trudging along, minding my own business, when it is as if someone simply appears next to me without warning, sticks out a hand and introduces herself. It’s happened that way with every single one of my main characters and many of the more minor ones.
Other times I have a sense of what the character is like and I need the right name to solidify what all that means. That’s when I like to turn to the government for inspiration. Like so many other writers I make frequent use of the social security administration’s name database. It allows you to search by decade, gender and even by popularity. When I know what a character is like, I usually have an idea what sort of parents he had and whether or not they would be likely to choose a popular or more unusual name for their child. In case you’re curious, in 1880 the 1000th most popular name for boys was Layton and girls was Euna.
Lately, I’ve also needed to name myself. I have a new historical mystery series set in Maine launching in September and it needed a new name to distinguish it from my contemporary series. It is surprisingly agonizing to choose author names. It feels like so much is involved. A signature, remembering to respond when someone speaks to you at an event, feeling like it is a match for you as a writer and as a person. Luckily for me me I had my married name waiting in the wings for just such an occasion.
Readers, do you like to name things? Writers, do you have a naming process either for your characters or for yourself?