What's In A Name?
As the saying goes “you don’t realize how many people you hate until you have to name a baby.” Or a character in a book. I’m not sure which situation is worse. I mean, it’s easier to change a baby’s name than that of a beloved protagonist or dastardly villain in a novel. No really, I have family who’ve actually changed their kid’s name once he became a toddler.
But I digress.
Choosing a name for a character in a book can be as difficult as navigating a minefield. No way do you want your buxom heroine named after your husband’s high school ex. How about having your fictional quarterback share the same moniker on his jersey as your teenage daughter’s boyfriend? Ugh! Then there’s your neighbor across the street—that guy who mows his lawn in his short shorts. His name is forever banned from your pool of characters even if you editor thinks it’s cool. Or how about the woman who sits next you in the cubicle canyon at work? You know the one, the loud talker whose dating life should be chronicled on a reality television show. She is so NOT lending a name to a protagonist in a book.
Let’s face it, if you’ve lived on this earth long enough, you or someone you know has a back-story for nearly every name out there. Often, we authors have to look beyond that and forge ahead, creating a new character who will perhaps redeem the name. I haven’t always been successful with this. With one book in particular it was a huge stumbling block for people I knew. You see, I used a last name that also happened to be shared by a couple in my neighborhood; a couple who coincidently were embroiled in a bit of a scandal, shall we say. Potential readers came up to me and said they wouldn’t read the book because of it. As an author, you just have to smile and nod. On the outside. Inside, I was yelling “get over it!”
One universal question that authors get asked is whether they base the characters in their books on real people. My short answer is: maybe. I pull character traits, mannerisms, diction, even descriptions from lots of people in my orbit. I think it’s safe to say that many authors do this. In some cases, I have even created a secondary character based on people I know AND given them their name. On purpose. Most times I do this to give my friends in my book club a starring role as the Prom Queen or my hero’s first lover. Other times, though, there’s a more devious method to my madness. I use real people to see if those same real people are actually reading my book. Family. Friends. I don’t discriminate. It’s my method of determining who in my inner circle is really reading what I write.
Since many of my books feature sports heroes, I have to be careful with the secondary characters I include. It’s fun to give my plot a more realistic feel by including big name professional jocks. But we authors have to tread carefully when we do that. It’s okay to have Derek Jeter, Patrick Sharp, David Beckham or Aaron Rodgers make an appearance in a book, but it’s not okay to have them doing something other than playing in a game. I’d never have them out cruising the bar scene with my hero. Or worse, doing something unprofessional like, oh, I don’t know, deflating some footballs or something. This is fiction after all.
In my latest release, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, my hero’s mother is named after one of my college roommates who also happens to beta read all of my books. Another college roommate appears in the book as the mother’s colleague. Charlotte, the hero’s sister, is named after a little girl who was taken from all of us too early. I like to think she would have grown up to be the precocious, but passionate, young woman who exists on the pages of the book.
How about you? Are their names that immediately bring up a negative emotion? Is the negativity so great that you can’t relate to a character with the same name in a book?
Dot-com millionaire Jay McManus is discovering that owning a pro football team like the Baltimore Blaze isn’t easy. An anonymous blogger is out to destroy his reputation, and now his team is being sued by its own cheerleaders. If Jay’s not careful, he could lose big—and not just financially.
Bridgett Janik’s brother may play for the Baltimore Blaze, but she’s not thrilled to be defending Jay McManus, the man who broke her heart. It’s bad enough she has to mingle with Jay during games, but working beside her former lover may be too much for her body—and her heart—to resist.
Jay’s determined not to let Bridgett slip away from him a second time. But, as the two follow the mysterious blogger’s trail, secrets—both past and present—are revealed, and Jay and Bridgett must decide if their relationship can be something more than just sleeping with the enemy.
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Currently, I live in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with my husband, two kids, a wild Labrador Retriever puppy and a mare named after my debut novel. When I’m not writing, I enjoy photography, cooking, and reading–shocker, right?
Find Tracy online
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Find Tracy online
Website | Facebook | Twitter