Author Catherine Mulvany loved fairy tales as a child, so it’s no wonder she writes romantic suspense with a paranormal twist (a.k.a. fairy tales for grownups).
A member of Romance Writers of America, Catherine earned a master’s degree from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, a course of study specifically geared toward genre writers. For more information, visit www.catherinemulvany.com.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…
© 2012 by Catherine Mulvany
What’s in a name?
If you’re a parent, you already know how much effort goes into choosing the perfect name for your child. For example, my parents named their first son James after my father. The middle name was much trickier, though. They debated back and forth for months. Should they go with Howard for my mother’s father or with Lincoln for my father’s father? In the end, they decided to use both grandfathers’ names. Hence, my brother Jimmy’s official name ended up being James Howard Lincoln.
Four years later, along came my younger brother. Since my parents had already used all the family names, they had to come up with something new. After a lot of thought, they chose Patrick Kevin, a name that worked well with our Irish surname.
Names are every bit as important to writers as they are to parents. Sometimes we writers choose names based solely on the way they sound. If we’re searching for something that suggests a contemporary heroic type, we generally pick one- or two-syllable names like Travis, Quinn, Mitch, and Ethan because they sound tough and macho. Historical heroes, on the other hand, generally sport more traditional names like Richard, Alexander, Geoffrey, or Thomas.
Other times writers pick specific names to provide insight into the character’s personality. Some writers even employ a bit of subliminal manipulation in the particular names they give certain characters. For example, J.K. Rowling chose to call the villain of her Harry Potter series Voldemort, a perfect choice since the name translates to “wind of death.”
Truth be told I probably waste way more time than I should naming my characters, but I can’t help it. The way the name sounds matters, of course, but for me, the meaning and origin are every bit as important. My most cherished—and most used—research book is The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Do I pick names according to how they sound? Yes, of course. But I also try to make them fit the character I’ve envisioned.
This summer I’ve been working on a book I outlined several years ago. For reasons I won’t bore you with, I had to change the hero’s name, and as usual, the whole process gave me fits. I spent literally half a day poring over lists of names. But the really odd part of the whole process came after I finally chose the new name, because the instant I did, the character himself changed—appearance, back story, verbal quirks, and personality. He was still heroic, of course, but different. Or to put it another way—yes, he smelled just as sweet, only more like a carnation than a rose.
So what’s your experience? Have you ever changed a character’s name? Did it make a difference?