lamenting all of the manuscript's problematic names. See, I spend days, if not months, generating my main characters' names. But in the midst of writing, I often feel I can't afford that same time to name my more minor characters. So I just pull a name out of thin air. Frequently, if I need a neighbor, I take my neighbor's name. A principal? I take my high school principal's name. You can see how this might become problematic quite quickly.
Anyway, after I wrote that post, and in the middle of scrambling to finish Project Sparkle, complete my MA on time, and rename half my characters, I promised myself never again. At least... until the next project.
Yes. Project Demo is full of high school teacher names, friends' names, my own middle name. I've even got a character with the last name Nadal. Guess what sport I was watching when I was writing this past summer?
Total name fail.
So I spent this past week trying to generate a whole new cast of names.
I think the problem is that I want to be a Dickens, when clearly I'm not. I love his characters' names. So evocative, yet not comical (unless the comedy is intentional!). Miss Flite. Mr. Guppy. Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Artful Dodger. Oliver Twist.
So I had this "genius" idea (notice the quotes!) to name all the characters in Project Demo something to do with water. See, my main character is afraid of water, and feels most of the world is out to get her. So a whole bunch of evocative, frightening, watery names... wouldn't that be too cool?
Unfortunately, as I've said a few times in this post, names really aren't my forte. Though, honestly, let's see you come up with 10-20 evocative watery character names! It's not as easy as I thought at first, even with my determination to use Mr. Guppy for a minor character! What else? Mr. Jaws? Dr. Teeth? Miss Flounder? Greg Weiss? Bob Kahuna?
And, I hate to shame him, but it must be said, I'm married to someone who studies fossil fish and their ecosystems for a living! You think he'd be helpful! Yet he only laughed when I suggested Mr. Benthic (Google it, I'll wait).
The names I came up with were either laughably obvious and not very frightening or evocative. Or they were so specialized that the average reader wouldn't have any idea it was a watery name. Then I realized I'd have to change my main characters' surnames, too, if this whole water scheme was going to work. Finally, after getting to Ms. Bathysphere, I gave up entirely.
Could it be done? Probably. But I am not the artist to do it.
Ultimately, I relied on my old standby, US Census data. This website is incredibly useful, though it relies on data from the 1990s. You can search last names alphabetically by most common, ethnicity, by US zip codes, etc.
By Friday night, I had done a search/replace on all of my problematic names. And I did keep two watery ones, just for fun, that I couldn't quite convince myself to get rid of (I'll save that trivia tidbit for when the book has made me a bestseller, okay?).
But next time, this will not happen. Next time I will systematically figure out every name before I write. Next time I will not name anyone in my novel after anyone I know or anyone famous.
Either that, or I'll use the 2012 White Sox roster. No one would notice, right?
Please, make me feel better, and share your own character name fails. Or maybe you could suggest some watery names? Good or bad, I'm open to either!
*The picture is mine, the deep, foreboding waters of Loch Ness*