It’s All in the Name

Creating people from scratch is a tricky business. Just ask the Big Guy upstairs. Except in my case I’m not creating real people, just the kind that run around in my head and in my stories. And then I have to name them. Which is like naming your kid, only harder because not only does it have to be a name that suits this imaginary person, but it can’t be too much like the names of any of the other imaginary people in the story or readers will get confused, and it can’t be a name that reminds people of someone famous…or worse, infamous.

So after much pondering and puzzling, I named my character Blaize. Then I spent a year writing a book in which he played, if not a leading role, at least a fairly major part. Then I sat down with my agent to rework the book and the first thing she said was, “You have to change his name. Blaize is what strippers call themselves.”

Oh. Well. Another lesson learned in the big city by this country hick.

So I pondered and puzzled a whole lot more because if finding a name is hard, changing a name this late in the game is like re-christening your child when they start high school. Or maybe college. Finally I narrowed it down to two: Dylan or Delon. I was leaning toward the second, but I kept thinking, “Would these Texans really name their kid Delon?” Then I recalled the story my sister told me about why her son’s name didn’t turn out to be exactly what she planned. But rather than me explaining, I’ll let Delon tell you himself.

How I Got this Way

My name is Delon Sanchez. Yeah, I know. Not exactly a traditional Hispanic name, Delon. Sounds like I should be a basketball player from inner city Houston not a cowboy from out by Amarillo, but there’s a pretty good story behind it.

My dad’s grandparents immigrated from Mexico back in the late forties and worked their way up to the Texas Panhandle. Like most of his generation of the family my dad speaks Spanish, but he doesn’t write or read it much. My mother was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She grew up in a border town where Spanish was the dominant language and though she speaks English well enough, she still has a strong accent.

And yes, this matters when it comes to how I became Delon.

When my older brother was born my mother didn’t get any say in what he was named because he’s The Man, the heir to the throne at Sanchez Trucking. He got saddled with the names handed down by my dad and my granddad: Benito Gilberto Sanchez Rivera. They call him Gil so’s not to confuse him with my dad, Benito.

When my mother found out I was going to be a boy, she informed my dad that she was naming this one whatever she wanted. I imagine there were a few arguments. There are always arguments between my parents. They seem to like it. At some point my mother must’ve won, and then my dad tuned out because that’s what he does when he doesn’t get his way, and he wasn’t really listening when my mother declared she was naming me after her favorite singer. Meh. Who paid attention to singers, anyway?

So the big day came. Things didn’t go as expected and I ended up being delivered by C-section. Mom was still off in La-La Land when they came around to see what name to put on the birth certificate, but Dad knew what she wanted so he filled it out and sent them on their way.

I’d been home from the hospital almost two weeks when the official version of my birth certificate came in the mail. According to my aunt, she heard the shrieking from clear across town. My mother shoved it under Dad’s nose. “What the hell is this? Day-loan? What kind of name is that? He’s supposed to be named after Bob Dylan.”

“What are you talking about?” Dad grabbed the certificate, pointed at the name. “Dee-lon. I wrote it down exactly how you said it.”

So here I am.

Kari Lynn Dell- Montana for Real

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18 Responses

  1. Heroines come to me with their names. Heroes spend most of the first couple drafts as “Hirogai” while I sweat, fume, research the perfect name (it’s “Hero Guy”–Baby Bear’s alter ego on Sesame Street).

    • Hirogai. I LOVE that. Also, I just bought tickets to a Sesame Street live show in Calgary. My sister and I can’t wait. My son? He doesn’t actually know who Elmo is.

  2. I love it, Kari! Awesome story! LOL

    I’m going through a similar problem. I had an image of my hero in my head, and I knew the last name I wanted to use, and after mulling for a little while, I decided Finn was the best fit. And it’s perfect. But then 1/4 of the way through the book I realized I can’t use it, because the heroine from the first book in the trilogy, who has a significant role in book 3, is Quinn. (Besides the obvious rhyming issue, people keep pointing out Finn and Quinn are a former couple from Glee. I watch the show, but my characters are sooooo different [and my Quinn came years before theirs did] that it just doesn’t stick in my head.)

    So I have played with a dozen different new names, none of which work, and changed it through the entire document three times. I’m still not convinced, but I’ll force myself to adapt. And work harder next time to find these problems before I start writing! LOL

    • Ugh. The rhyming. Or in my case, father and son with the same first initial, which was the other problem with Blaize as a name.

      Some of my characters show up with names fully attached. And some names are not negotiable. Joe is going to remain Joe if I have to change every other name in the book.

      • My editor told me she was having trouble with Marley and Riley, but not in her head, only when she was typing comments. But it turned out the one she was really confusing was Alanna. LOL

        I have an unpublished series that has heroes named Ryc and Rock. I didn’t catch it until way late, because they were never referenced together.

    • I’m a Gleek, and Finn and Quinn on the show have always bugged me. Glad you chnged yours, although I love the name Finn:-) BTW, It’s me–Pamela Hearon. I’m on limited Internet and I can’t get into WordPress.

      • Pamela, I’ll have to use Finn in another, non-Goddesses Rising story. I love the name, too! And for some reason I never connect it to Glee. My Finn is pretty different than the show’s Finn. LOL

  3. Oh, just the thought of having to change a major character’s name makes me shudder. I just had to rename a sidekick, and it almost killed me (apparently Bubba, and Buster are too alike-critters thought I’d confuse people. Yeah, I write Westerns.) I renamed Bubba something else – see? I can’t even remember his name now!

    Yikes.

    • BUSTER!! Thank you. I’ve been looking for a name for a crotchety character who only appears in the first chapter, need something offbeat enough to be memorable.

      • I know a guy nicknamed Smiley – would be ironic, huh? And my mom knows a guy they call “Bones” and one called “Mouse.” Small towns are full of crazy nicknames for folks. I usually pick one I’ve heard a dozen times. Oddly enough, i’ve said it so much, that it doesn’t seem that unusual until I REALLY think about it.

        • Indian reservations are great for nicknames, too. There are several people around here I’ve known all my life and I couldn’t tell you their real names. Dutch, Huggy Bear, Fudge, Squee, Skinny, and yes, we have a Mouse, too.

  4. Cute story by Dee-Lon. Yeah, naming characters is hard because they have to fit the story and the person in your head. I’ve not had to change one, but I think it would be weird. And I don’t think editors and agents think about how traumatizing it is to the writer. Sounds easy, but it’s hard to be capricious about someone you’ve spent the last four months with.

    • I’m pretty sure Janet knew exactly what she was asking, since she made her request from clear across a very large table with a pizza box for a shield.

      • 🙂 Yeah, she probably did. And I just remembered I did have to change a main characters’ last name. He was Adam Bent (a straight-laced police chief – I like irony) and it was too close the the heroine’s brother in law (Brent) so I had to change it. Didn’t like even changing the last name. I’d hate changing the first.

  5. I have the worst time writing when the names aren’t “right”. In my current WIP, I used “Caroline” as a placeholder for my heroine. When I tried to rename her later, it was impossible. In my mind, she was Caroline and as I wrote, I could never remember any name for her other than Caroline!

    Love your story. Sorry to hear about all your late nights!

  6. Great story! Truth is most often funnier than fiction:-) Pamela here–still can’t get into WordPress.

  7. first names usually come pretty easy to me. so for the roughnecks I really didn’t think twice when I named a Gretchen, Flora and Tonya and boys Lane, Jacob and Trent.

    yep, you got it. bk3, Trent and Tonya. I didn’t catch it, a reader did when asking who was where. *faceplant*. Now my h/h names sound more like brother/sister in my head.

    • I also love when you get to the end of the book and realize you’ve given the hero a last name that sounds utterly ridiculous for the heroine. Something like Ginger Snap.

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