Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Name Game

by Stephanie Black

I spent the morning at an automobile service department, waiting for an oil change on my minivan. It was rather peaceful—the kids are out of school for spring break this week, so my teenagers were at home babysitting the junior barbarians and I was on my own. “It’ll be about an hour and a half,” the service guy told me. Not a problem. As long as my laptop battery lasts, I’m good (except for the stiffness that comes with sitting in a waiting room chair for too long). I’m deep in the rewrite of my novel and had plenty to do while I waited.

My husband just finished reading my as-yet-untitled new book (it has a working title, but not a very catchy one, so I won’t say what it is). I asked my husband if he liked the book and he said yes. Husbands are smart that way; they understand when there’s only one right answer to a question. He did point out that he thought it was funny that I named one of my villains after a member of our ward. I was horrified. “Who?” I demanded. Apparently I named my villain after a young man who left on a mission not too long ago. I didn't know him well enough to remember his name, but maybe that’s why I subconsciously gave his last name to a villain who shares his first name. How embarrassing to name your villain after your Relief Society president’s missionary son. “I’ll change it,” I said. My husband thought it was hilarious and urged me to leave it, but no way! It’s okay to have the same first name or the same last name, but both together? That could prove awkward at ward parties. So I gave my miscreant a new surname.

Names can be tricky, and I can spend an inordinate amount of time wringing my hands over a main character’s name. I’ve got to like the sound of it. It’s got to fit the character. If it’s a bad guy, it can’t be named after, say, my brother. For first names, I like to go to the Social Security Website and look at list of names. You can call up a list of the top 1000 names for any decade from 1880s on, so if you need a name for a great-grandmother, you can see what names were popular the year she was born. It’s a very handy list.

Speaking of names, Josi Kilpack posted a great blog about pen names. Pen names and stage names fascinate me. I feel I know a cool secret when l know both the pseudonym and the real name of a famous person and I like those lists of celebrities that tell you John Denver used to be Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.

I enjoyed Josi’s story about how before her first book was published she had decided to use a pen name, but then her publisher talked her out of it. As for me, I never wanted to use a pen name. My theory was that after I’d worked like crazy to write a novel and get it published, heck, I wanted the credit for it! I did do some handwringing over the question of what version of my name to use. Should I include my maiden name, like many female authors do (e.g. Julie Coulter Bellon, Betsy Brannon Green, Traci Hunter Abramson)? Should I add my middle initial? (Jeffrey S. Savage, Robison E. Wells--oh wait, he's E-less now). It was my wise mother who finally pointed out that plain Stephanie Black rolled off the tongue in a more pleasing way than any of the other combos. Thanks, Mom.

Anyway, I'd better quit blogging and go take a nap--er, I mean work on my rewrite.


At 4/11/2007 5:28 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I was a bit horrified to learn that some of the missionaries who served under my parents think I named my first hero after one of their elders. Apparently half of the sisters had a crush on him. I didn't--I was ten. Boys still had cooties, and the elders were grown men. This guy was a hairy ape as far as I was concerned. But alas, my hero still bears his name, and some of these former missionaries still think I must have had a crush on the guy like they did.

In reality, the name came from combining the first name of a guy a friend dear-johned (Greg was a nice, strong, single-syllable name) and the last name of a family on the street I lived on (I went up and down the neighborhood thinking of family names and comibining them with "Greg" until I liked the sound). Viola--Greg Stevens. Too bad it happened to match the hairy ape missionary!

At 4/11/2007 6:20 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Of course, what Stephanie didn't mention is who the hero is named after.

I'm not saying, as she knows where I live.

At 4/11/2007 6:51 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Annette, that's too funny!

Evil, you are delusional.

At 4/12/2007 10:31 AM, Blogger Josi said...

My first book has a character that served a mission but then came home got married in the temple cause his woman wanted to and then went off the deep end, drinking carousing, all kinds of not-so-good things. After the book came out a woman in my ward came up to me and said that was exactly what her husband did--AND I'd used the same name with the same spelling as her husband. We're good friends with her and her hubby and it took some doing to convince her I didn't know her husbands checkered past and I certainly wouldn't have used that exact name if I did know.

In my last book I had a list of men that could have been a father to a child (sordid, I know) and one of them was a kid in my ward that was preparing to leave on his mission. Had I not read it out loud to my husband I'd have kept it in there. Scary.

And Stephanie Black is a great name, and they make your name SO BIG. That's Awesome! Good luck with the infernal rewrite. Oy!

At 4/12/2007 11:00 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kind of funny about the "big" name--a guy in our ward came up to me once and said, "My wife just bought a book. I think it's your biography." Ha ha. Sometimes I do wonder if people who don't understand that authors don't design their own covers think I have this really big ego!

At 4/12/2007 11:07 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great character name stories, Josi. Names can be so tricky! That's wild that the guy had the same past as your character! Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction!

At 4/13/2007 1:32 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Rob is "e"-less? When did that happen? Where did it go? Kerry, there's the topic for your next mystery dinner!


Post a Comment

<< Home