I have a confession to make.
I didn't walk my dog this morning. And it's partly because I stayed up too late last night researching names that, turns out, I'm not going to use anyway.
You might be wondering, how do writers come up with all these wonderful names for their characters? Names like Riley Poole and Stoick the Vast and Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent (from National Treasure, How to Train Your Dragon, and Ever After respectively). Is there a magical hat that we pick our names from?
Writers, myself included, tend to haunt baby-naming websites. We search by nationality and by meaning. I spent last night on www.catholic.org/saints/, which is a list of Catholic saints. (Lots of people during the Middle Ages were named after saints, or at the very least, picked a saint's name when they were confirmed, but that's another story.) I also get most of my Norse names online.
But websites aren't the only places we get names from. Sometimes we find a name that haunts us. It's perfect. It's beautiful. And hopefully, it's easy to pronounce. I wanted a character named Evangeline for a while, and eventually used her in a school assignment.
The thing about names, though, is that writers tend to be picky about them. Why did I spend two hours researching saint's names? I wanted to rename a character. You see, I named a particular character after saint who lived and died in the early 11th century, and Where the Clouds Catch Fire is set in 963. And even though I figured out what two of Alynn's aunt's names are, I didn't get anywhere with renaming Adelaide McLain.
But I had more than one reason for wanting to rename my character. Adelaide starts with A, and so does Alynn--and Alrik, whom we meet in the sequel. It was too many A's for me. I thought about Margaret, and Mildreth, and Bridget, but nothing seemed right. Finally, I went to complain to Mom (because she can fix everything) and she told me to keep the name. So Adelaide McLain will forever be Adelaide McLain.
It's apparently common for people to ask a writer, "Can you use my name in a story?" This has only happened to me once. Will we use your name if you ask? We might. But more often than not, we'll make you into a caricature of how we see you. Or, just to annoy you, we'll make you into the half-witted comic relief or the villain. And we might kill your character afterwards.
Unless we like you. Then we'll probably be nice to your character, too.
Are you bold enough to submit your name to a writer's eye? Comment below, and I might use it in an upcoming short story! Keep your eyes peeled for Part One of "Tales of an Overactive Imagination," coming Monday! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like our Facebook page!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.