Thanks to my friend, J. Scott Sharp for inviting me to guest post. I couldn't be more pleased that my words are appearing on his blog. But it is my first time guest-blogging so please, be gentle.
Sometimes a story is ignited by inspiration found in the perfect name. One of my shorts is titled The Sun is Setting on Geneva Early. No need to correct my grammar, it isn’t about an evening in Switzerland. Geneva Early is a character’s name. A dying old lady in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. The entire story flowed from that name, from that title.
Finding just the right character name can be one of the hardest parts of writing. I search baby name sites, jot down ideas from television or scrawl a cool name overheard in the supermarket anywhere I can. Sometimes I awaken from a dream with the perfect name in mind. But when inspiration withers, I use GIRL or BOY or some other placeholder until the character discovers their name.
In my novel, Suicide City, the main character’s name is August. The meanings attributed to the name August include majestic, grandeur, venerated and perfect. All very good descriptors for how the main male character feels about her.
I’ve been criticized for giving this girl a boy’s name. Pffft to that. I wrote the short story version of this tale in 1998. The inspiration for the name came from the only female August I’d ever heard of - Tommy’s girlfriend in Third Rock from the Sun. Since then, August Boatwright emerged from the Secret Life of Bees, and Garth Brooks chose to name his daughter August. And many of you writer/bloggers have probably heard of August McLaughlin.
My gender name-bending doesn’t stop there. Another female character in Suicide City is Ricki, and my own daughter’s name is Brynn - with one less ‘n’ it is traditionally a Welsh man’s name.
The main male character in Suicide City is Reese, which derives from the Welsh “Rhys” meaning ardor. Another perfect match, given the emotions that blossom between him and August.
I’ve gotten backlash for his name too and have been told that Reese is a girl’s name. Really? Because this character was inspired by and named for a boy my daughter knew in grade 1. Another Reese is one of the brothers from Malcolm in the Middle. I know, I know, Reese Witherspoon is a chick, but ‘Reese’ is her second middle name which was her mother’s maiden name. I’ve Googled it eight ways from Sunday, and the results agree - Reese is perfectly acceptable for boys and girls. And peanut butter cups.
“Words have meaning and names have power.” ~Author Unknown