Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Name Game

You know that new story I'm working on? Well, I fairly quickly decided on a name for the heroine. It's a fairly normal name - not glamorous or hyper-feminista stereotypically romance heroine-ish. But it's not a dud, flat sounding name. It suits my heroine - she's a bit of a home-body and definitely more of the girl-next-door type than a diva.

I turned to my hero and had a little bit more trouble. My hero is Croatian. Yep. And I'll admit right here and now that my inspiration for this guy is Dr. Luka Kovac from ER - both in looks and general broody temperment (their backgrounds are different and chosen professions not the same). In fact, I have a picture of Goran Visnjic to look at when I need a dose of hero-stimulation. Really. I swear, that's why I look at it. Geez!

So in coming up with a name, I did some Google searches for Croatian names. Weirdly enough, my favorite happened to be...you guessed it, Luka. Honestly, if I'd found another one I like even equally as much, I would have picked it instead. Problem was the only other names I liked were very "foreign" and I worry that they'd be hard to mentally pronounce. I hate that when I encounter it in a book - a hero/heroine whose name I have to sum up to "B-blahblah" because I can't mentally pronounce it.

Except last night it occured to me that I now have a hero/heroine name combination of Luka and Lora.

No good. Just...no good.

So now I have to change one of the characters' names. Except I like them both. Lora *is* a Lora for me. And I think Luka just sums up the sexiness of my hero to a T.

What to do. What to do.

I hate coming up with the names for my characters. Well, I don't hate it, but I find it stressful. I thumb through my most excellent baby names book, but the trouble with that is somehow I always manage to have a cast of characters whose names begin with the letters A, B and C. This is because I start with the A names and work my way back, usually getting sick of the whole ordeal long before I hit Es, Hs, or Ns. Yes, I have tried starting in the back with the Zs. Doesn't help.

What trips me up even more is when I need to come up with names for minor or throw-away characters. I'll find a name I like and plan to use it for a character who is kind of a walk-on or maybe has a very minor but recurring role. Then I'll start to reconsider because if I like the name, maybe it would be a good one to save to use for a hero/heroine in a future book. I hate the idea that there might be a Chloe or a Josh in every single one of my books simply because I couldn't be any more original.

Maybe readers don't notice this use of the same name, but I've caught it in some of my most favorite book. Suzanne Brockmann (all bow down for a moment of reverence) named the unfortunate neighbor-of-the-heroine/rape victim in Get Lucky Gina. Then she also used the name Gina in her book, Over The Edge. And - SPOILER HERE - the Gina in OTE also ended up being a rape victim. I read OTE first, but when I saw the name Gina in Get Lucky, it did give me pause. I wondered if SB had forgotten her use of Gina in GL when she sat down to name the character in OTE or if she just loved the name so much she wanted to re-use it. Have no idea, but I did notice the double use, so I'm just saying it happens. And now OTE Gina is about to star in her own book. I wonder if SB regrets using that name earlier?

Add to all of this the fact that things start to get confusing because I lose track of people and what I've named them. I recently decided to get organized and started a spreadsheet of character names I've used. I've got them listed by role (hero, villain, secondary hero) and relationship to other characters (hero's best friend, heroine's dead mother) as well as which book they appear in. Some of them shift roles - secondary hero in one novel but hero in a second novel - which means that whatever I've named them has to be good since I'll be living with them for a good long while.

Some names come so easily. I'll concept a character and the name is right there from the beginning. What usually happens then, though, is that I'll pick up a book from the TBR pile and start reading only to discover *my* character's name staring out at me. Ugh! I never know if I should change my hero/heroine's name or just chalk it up to a limited number of names in the world and an apparently endless supply of books and characters.

Last names are both easier and harder. Easier because the chances of inadvertently copying are a lot less and harder because there is a finer line between an over-used name (Smith, Brown, Roberts) and a name that is just too "ethnic" for the novel. I poured over Croatian surnames in the search for Luka's, discarding those that I couldn't even pronounce.

I have a feeling Luka will need to be the one to go, name-wise. It's just too close to the ER character's name and I feel too much like a copycat. So does anyone out there have a good idea for the name of a sexy Croatian guy who looks a lot like Goran Visnjic?


McVane said...

Well, most Croatian guys over here have other Slavic names, so perhaps you needn't to be so strict?

I keep meeting Josip [Joseph], Marko, Nikola [Nicholas], Ivan, Tomislav [Thomas; one told me that 'Tomica' is a childhood nickname, e.g. 'Tommy'. Oops. I have been referring him as Tomica for a couple of years], Goran, Andrija, Janko [John?], Mijo [Michael], Juraj [George], Anton [Anthony], Stipe [Steve], and, believe it or not, Adam and Simon.

I find that clusters of similar names have a lot to do with where they come from. Perhaps you could pick a region for your hero and do a bit of research on the region to find the name? Because I met one whose name is Giovanni and he's born-and-raised Croatian. According to him there are several historic Italian settlements dotting along a certain [I wouldn't remember to spell it even if you offer a million pound] coast of Croatia. And he speaks Italian, too. It's very strange because he has strong Slavic looks but out of his mouth is pure Italian. As for Serbian guys ... ? :D

Ronn said...

Here's a quick half-dozen that caught my eye and made me think, good name.

Antun - Croatian form of Anthony
Bojan - Derived from Slavic boi meaning "battle"
Goran - Means "mountain man" in Slavic
Javor - Means "maple tree" in Slavic
Petar - Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian and Macedonian form of Peter
Toma - Croatian form of Thomas