Today, I’m excited to feature a guest post by BC Johnson, author of DeadGirl, a new young adult paranormal romance.
Dead is such a strong word … Lucy Day, 15 years old, is murdered on her very first date. Not one to take that kind of thing lying down, she awakens a day later with a seemingly human body and more than a little confusion. Lucy tries to return to her normal life, but the afterlife keeps getting in the way. Zack, her crush-maybe-boyfriend, isn’t exactly excited that she ditched him on their first date. Oh, and Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins hunting her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl. Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham.
What’s In and Around a Name?
I’m going to share something potentially embarrassing and wholly neurotic with you – I am obsessed with names. I’m not kidding, either. I’m a whacky costume and a themed bank-heist away from becoming a Batman villain.
Now, as a writer, of course names are important to me. “All God’s chillin’s gotta have names,” after all, which is a quote I just butchered and shaped to my own dark purposes. Books have characters in them, ideally, and calling everyone “Guy,” while convenient and economical, doesn’t always fly.
When it comes time to name a character, it feels less like a convenient tag and more like I’m coloring in their soul. It has to describe them, to define them, to suit them in such a way that both dude (or dudette) and name become instantly interlocked in the readers’ minds. Books are not a visual medium, which means that name is the main method of knowing who is saying what and who is doing what. Because you don’t redescribe the character every six seconds (or you shouldn’t, because that’s super annoying), that name has to stand tall and scream.
It takes me a long time to name character, but, paradoxically, it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole process. Sometimes, when it’s late at night and I don’t have any better thoughts to think, I wonder if “naming characters” is half the reason I got into writing. It might explain why my stories have so many characters in them, anyway.
What did I name my main character in Deadgirl, the bright young girl who somehow manages to find the lighter side of horrible situations? Lucy Day, literally, “Light Day” or “Bright Day.” You could even stretch the interpretation to “Bringer of Daylight” if you’re feeling stretchy.
Now, that’s not too bad. I think most writers are at least aware of what their character’s names mean. My personal turn into gimmick-villain territory involves using names not just as definitions, but as foreshadowing. Many characters in all my manuscripts have a name that alludes to what or who they will eventually become, or references a similar character in another story. There’s a character named “Robin Goodman” in Deadgirl, for instance, and if you know your Shakespeare and squint sideways at it you should be able to figure out a thing or two about that guy.
I wish I could say the obsession extends only to my own writing, but it doesn’t. God forbid I’m given a prompt in a video game to name one of the characters – there goes an hour, surfing through baby name sites and Wikipedia until I find the exact Babylonian Deity name that really fits this sentient dog I have to name.
I’ve even built a quirk into my writing where I include a character name from a certain, specific, classic mythology in every story I write. I even like to keep it a secret to see if, forty years from now, someone figures it out. Now that’s a level of nerdiness I can barely claim credit for. I assume there’s just something broken in my brain and it’s time to start sewing my costume and thinking of catch phrases to throw at the man in the bat costume swinging down from the rooftops at me.