Seventeen years ago, I had to name a child. I mean, I guess I could have NOT named the child, but that would have led to much mayhem and confusion. I poured over baby naming books, asked friends, looked at surveys of popular names, and asked my family. I finally came up with a name for a girl and a name for a boy (I didn’t have a reveal of gender, and I’m glad I didn’t because I am not a fan. Our kids tell us their gender when they are ready). I told my mother what I wanted to name my child if it was a boy. Her reply? “…Oh.” Now it’s funny, but back then it was frustrating. You can find a reason to not name your child any name. They could be teased, or there could end up being a mass murderer with the same name. Imagine what it must have been like for Adolph Smith back in the 1940s. So how did I end up naming my child the name I chose? Well, I spent one night in desperation two weeks before my due date looking at every name in a book with 500 names. I tried each one on in my head, looked at their meanings, and thought if I would want to call my child that name when I was angry at them (along with the requisite middle name, which had already been chosen-both of my grandmothers had the same first name. No brainer). Finally, I found a name that I didn’t have any problems with, and it just happened to be the name of someone I really cared about in the past, and I had my name.
Now it’s seventeen and a half years later, and my child hates their name. Oh well. Best intentions, right?
What other things do we have to name? Pets, businesses, a tune, a price, etc. Some people name their cars, and others, their genitalia. Bomber planes and rocket ships. Ocean liners, trains. Lots of modes of transportation, and most likely they are women’s names. My favorite is Enola Gay. It always stuck with me, even thought that plane was a vehicle for an atomic bomb. It was probably also the name of some pilot’s sweetheart or daughter.
What does naming things have to do with writing, you may ask? No, you probably already know the answer. Authors have to name tons of things, and I often get asked how I come up with names. There are titles, chapters, characters, fictional agencies and school, towns, businesses. And in my universe, the characters’ hometown is Eastboro, Massachusetts, a fictional place eerily similar, and next door, to my actual hometown, so I had to make up everything. I will start with how I came up with the name Eastboro. I have to credit my brother, Jonathan (which is his name, don’t call him Jon) for coming up with this one. He figured out that Massachusetts has a Northboro, a Southboro, and a Westboro, but no Eastboro. So now there is an Eastboro, and it lives in my series of books. Now I will talk about Titles, Chapters, and Characters (including names of places) and how I came up with them.
- Titles: I have written 5 books and I am in the process of writing the 6th. They are all part of the same series. They are love stories, but not just loves stories, so it’s hard to express everything they are in one small title. But so far, just like most things, my books have told me their names. The most recent one, #6, was more elusive, because I had to add some dimension to my universe, and I had to get to know the characters in a different context. So now I will tell you my titles, all except for one, because it’s too revealing of the ongoing story.
- Book 1: May I Have Your Attention Please, so called because the main characters would like to get each other’s attention, both in the past and the present. And also, because they have difficulty with attention.
- Book 2: I Just Can’t Say I Love You. Pretty literal. And also a line stolen from the book.
- Book 3: Absolutely and Totally Smitten. Obviously contains love, and lots of it. Unexpected love. And big, overwhelming love.
- Book 4: The Stories That Must Be Told. This is my most dramatic book, that deals with some real-life problems, and some very special people who help each other. And there are lots of stories to be told. They must be told.
- Book 5: Not revealing this name, because it includes the name of the MC, and I don’t want you all to know who I’m focusing on. You’ll see why when you read my books.
- Book 6: Secrets, Big and Small. This is my work in progress (WIP) and I had a really hard time with this one. I knew it should include secrets. There are some in the book. Some are big, some are small (I feel compelled to add an LOL here).
- Names of Characters: Naming characters has a lot in common with naming children. In a way, the characters are your children. Sometimes, I name them after people I know. Sometimes, I name them and then delete them and name them again. One of the reasons I didn’t want to go with traditional publishing, is that I didn’t want anyone to tell me I had to change the name of my characters.
- Sally: I do have a cousin Sally, but that’s not where this came from. I was looking for a name that would be appropriate for the 1980s, but not the name of anyone I knew back then. It fit the criteria, and soon, Sally was her name. No question. And then someone reminded me that it was also the name of someone from another part of my past, and maybe I might want to change it. But it was too late. It was her name, and she didn’t want to change it. She wouldn’t answer to anything else.
- James: I wanted a good, basic male name, that could have a popular nickname, but could also be used as a full name. I wanted him to have the possibility of a cute pet name from Sally. And it really works. Every time I see the name James anywhere now, I have a feeling of warmth. It’s a good, strong name.
- Darlene, Kim, Traci, Carl, Chris, Pete, Michelle: The group of friends started out as a generic support cast, but all of them eventually get a part as an MC. But these are all names that were popular when I was growing up. Michelle started as a tribute to a junior high friend of mine (whose name isn’t Michelle by the way) and then she morphed into her own person. But the red hair and glasses come from my friend.
- Last names: Sally Bachman, James Newell. Sally is Jewish. I wanted her to have a name that reflected that. And I am a big fan of classic rock. Bachman Turner Overdrive. And Sally (and I) share a birthday with Tim Bachman. Newell is kind of generic. It was a name I saw written down somewhere when I was trying to choose a name, and I just loved it for James. And it also hides half of his ancestry, which will be revealed not too long into the book. Other character last names (Gorman, Cooper, Bishop, Feinman, Walsh, Drake) are all names that would be common in a place like Massachusetts. I also used the last name Wells, after a very dear friend who died of cancer early in the COVID era. She will live on forever in my writing. I used a lot of Irish and Italian names in my stories because there are a lot of Irish and Italian people where I’m from. And many of them came from Google searches.
- Businesses, streets, school: These were really fun. I had to do a lot of research, because I didn’t want to use real people or businesses in my names, but I wanted the places to have a back story. Everyone who lives near the lake in Eastboro has some connection to Aries Corps. This is constant through all 6 books, but to be honest, we never find out what it is that Aries Corps does, or why it is named what it is. It’s not after the God of War or the zodiac sign. I think it’s named after its founder, and that may lead to some story sometime. The mall is called the Main Street Mall. The popular Italian restaurant is called Luigis because, well, the Mario Brothers. The two high schools in town are McKinney and Murphy. Both were famous Eastboro people. DeMarco Elementary and Randall Junior High. Both made up people. Abraham Lincoln Elementary. I think you might have a vague idea where that comes from. Street names: I just use street names I’ve seen before or make them up. Twin Bridges Park in Eastboro: Anyone who is from my hometown will know how I got that name after reading the book.
- Chapter Titles: I love to name my chapters rather than just use numbers. In “May I Have Your Attention Please,” I use a gimmick. It was so fun. So far, readers have enjoyed it. For my other books, I have just come up with a word or phrase that I like that fits the topic. I have to say, for some reason, I’m really good at naming chapters.
There’s a bit of insight into my process. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you are curious enough about book 5 since I wouldn’t tell you the name, that you read the first four so you can get to it! But, 6 is pretty cool, too. 4 is still my favorite, but the first 3 are my babies, so…read them all! And probably in order.
I hope that whatever your name is, you are having a wonderful week and enjoying the vivid dreams that this time of year brings us all. Stay warm and dry!