What’s in a name?

Every author has the unfortunate duty of naming her characters. I say “unfortunate” because I’ve never felt comfortable doing it. My characters are usually born with names – maybe even born from names – and sometimes those names are weird. Back when I did comic books, and before I had a kid, my husband used to shake his head over my stories and say, “You are NOT naming our children!”

There are a few characters who have been with me such a long time that I don’t remember anything about naming them. Josef, Earl of Apsig, is one. He wasn’t always an Earl, but he’s always been ready to step into the story wherever I need a jerk, a cad, or sometimes even a bad boyfriend. He’s like my utility infielder. Need somebody at jerk base? Josef, you’re up.

There are others, though, whose name origins I remember quite clearly. Here are a few:

Lars – I first conceived of Lars while watching the documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. I thought that was a really interesting film — particularly coming from my classical music background. There was a segment on the classical origins of heavy metal, and that got me thinking. Surely, in every era, there have been people who would have been metal fans if they lived today. What were they doing back then? Playing bagpipes? Pipe organs? How did they get their loud music fix? And thus, a character was born, my Medieval Metalhead, and I named him after Lars Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica.

Abdo – Abdo was named after George Abdo, one of the great early recorders and popularizers of raks sharqi bellydance music. And he is a dancer, yes. And it is not a coincidence.

Orma – Orma was named after this grumpy guy I used to work with, whose name was actually Norman. And to be fair, I didn’t know him that well. He may not have been in a bad mood every day; he was never anything but polite when I talked to him. He just looked grumpy, all the time, and this fascinated me. Owner of a grumpy face. I think that’s a song by YES.

Glisselda – Glisselda has been with me a long time as well, but I remember looking for the most over-the-top spoiled princess name I could come up with. One of those names that seems to encapsulate a personality already, that’s shorthand for something. Because what can you do when you have a name like that? You either live up to it, or you fight it with everything you’ve got. Unexpectedly (to me, anyway), my Glisselda seems to do both.

All right, I could go on, but I’m sick and should be napping. Let’s do this again sometime! I only have, oh, forty million characters, ha ha ha.

I kid. Four million, tops.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

    • Heh. I actually stole Thudmilla from my friend Josh, who had D&D character named that, iirc. But yeah, see, I’m quite talented at the really silly ones. It’s knowing when to be a little more staid that sometimes trips me up, I fear.

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