Why is it so difficult? There was a time when names used to just jump into my head. I never worried about whether a name was cool or not. It was just a name. A name that seemed almost preformed was Gomenzi, anti-hero of my novel “Transference.” I was sure I had heard it somewhere before because it felt familiar. It doesn’t, however, seem to exist. It doesn’t come up at all if you Google it – aside from my novel “V. Gomenzi”. These days I Google all names to make sure there isn’t some famous person with that name, although this is only true of names with surnames; my characters often only have one name, particularly if they are gracing the pages of a sci-fi story.
Other names that have leapt into my head are:
Claire Halward, with parents Nick and Karin
Dett (who had a number of variations such as Detter, Detteth, Detteria and Besredetth)
Domitian (okay, I stole that – but who would think to use it now!)
The list goes on!
Recently, in the last year or so, my pool of imaginary names seems to have run dry. The heroine in my short story “The Crystal Vision” had so many name changes that sitting here, right now, I can’t actually remember her name. This is NOT a good sign. All characters are a part of me, after all; it’s like not being able to remember part of your own name. I’ve just checked: her name is Lightness. Urgh. No wonder I couldn’t remember it. It isn’t really a proper name at all (her mirror-twin is called Darkling, which is even more ridiculous).
I’m currently doing an enormous edit on an enormous novel I “finished” three years ago. The main character in this has not only had her hair colour change but also her name – at least seven times. I really, really wanted to call her Igraine. And this is where my problems start: the names I love are invariably mythical or made-up and used in famous novels. Igraine was King Arthur’s mum. The name has pretty much never been used for anything else (unless you’re a trendy parent, the kind to saddle your kid with names like Merlin or Frodo or Galadriel). I worked on it for an age and eventually came up with my own made-up name, Ilgria. When the novel was done (at least, I thought it was done), I realised I didn’t like the name at all. My daughter agreed, saying she thought it made the character sound old. Being highly enamoured with Tolkien names, I pinched a word from Elvish and called her Elanen. My daughter promptly mispronounced it. I promptly discarded it.
The search went on. After several more attempts, I came up with Alegria, which is basically just Allegra dressed up a bit. When I started my Big Red Edit (which has currently turned into a bit of a rewrite), I realised it was horrible and had to wrack my brains all over again. Finally, I hit on Elanor. It sounds a bit like all the names I’ve been wanting to call her, so is ideal. And it’s pretty! But it’s also a very famous name from, yes, Tolkien, being both a flower and Sam Gamgee’s eldest daughter (she even has her own Wiki page). I eventually settled on a variant of the spelling and my heroine is now called Ellinor.
But you know what? I don’t like it.
While that name-search hangs over my head, my new short story, which I dreamed up all of two weeks ago, has run aground on the same deserted beach. It doesn’t help that she’s a princess and he’s a prince. The ONLY name that seems to go with prince is Charming. Yes. Really. Prince Charming. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.