Category: nameberry guest blogger
One of our favorite guest bloggers is best-selling, prize-winning thriller writer JEFF ABBOTT, whose recently released novel Adrenaline is receiving accolades across the national mediascape. To commemorate his success, we’re revisiting the blog that takes us inside his character naming process, complete with concrete examples–and, incidentally–an acknowledgement of the part played by our very own books and website.
I think it is sometimes easier to name a child than a character in a book.
I have used Pam and Linda’s books to name characters in my novels now for the past several years. And they are perfectly geared to finding that ideal character name, given that the lists are organized by groupings such as style, energy, creativity, and so on. (My favorite all-time list as a resource: The Fitting In, Standing Out list).
I first used a baby naming book as a second-grader, when I was writing my first stories in pencil in a Big Chief tablet. I told my mom I was having trouble knowing what to name a certain character, and she gave me the baby name book she’d used. It listed names alphabetically, with ethnic origin and “variations and diminutives.” What I mostly learned from this book was that Teutonic meant German and I would have been named Caroline if I was a girl. (It was the only girls’ name circled in the entire book.) It offered a fairly slim list of choices, compared to today’s books, and I pretty much resorted to either trying to match a name to the feel of the character (like naming a pretty girl Melissa, which was the epitome of a pretty girl name at the time) or matching the name’s original meaning to the character. (I named a king in a very early short story Frederick because it meant ‘peaceful ruler’, and he was a nice king.)
I knew even then that picking a name because it meant ‘brave warrior’ in Old German had very little to do with how the name was viewed in our culture. And in the shorthand of fiction, you want a name that matches the character, that signals, however subtly, to the reader, a trait or feeling about this person.
When I started to write a new crime series about an ex-CIA agent who owns bars around the world, I wanted the characters to have names that matched their personalities. Now, the advantage of naming characters over kids is that you know the personality of the character, and you don’t know (yet) the personality of the beautiful little baby.
Last week’s post was all about the trendsetting Pinkett-Smith family and their son Jaden Christopher Syre, named after mom Jada. This week the spotlight turns to daughter Willow Camille Reign, after dad Will. While plenty of parents chose appellations that honor loved ones, crossing gender lines opens up some inventive options for girls’ names.
At first glance, this is easy for girls’ names. There are plenty of traditional equivalents, like Charles/Charlotte or Alexander/Alexandra. But what if you’re trying to name a daughter after your brother Chad? Or you adore your uncle Patrick, but you can’t imagine calling your little one Patricia?
Parents have grafted together some unusual choices over the years. There are just add –ette or –elle names, like Danette and Donelle; ends-in-ie choices, like Artie and Bennie; and double names, from Bobbie Sue to Rayanne. Some may be carefully chosen, but Markie or Hughette can sound like afterthoughts, hastily cobbled together when the parents heard the words, “It’s a girl!”
Sometimes parents just pass on the masculine moniker, but there is a world of options for naming a daughter Pinkett-Smith style. It’s not just Will and Jade, either. Emeril Lagasse called his daughter Meril.
Jaden Christopher Syre Smith turns 13 next month. Smith is Hollywood royalty, the son of actors Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, and his name is often cited as one of the reasons Jayden, Caeden, Hayden, and company became an epidemic among boys’ names.
Overlook the rhymes-with-Aiden qualities of Jaden Smith’s name for a minute, and there’s something else notable about this young actor’s appellation. While girls have been named after their fathers since ancient days, Jaden is one of relatively few boys to be named after his mother.
You may need to be creative to name a daughter after your favorite uncle, but that can create an opportunity, too. Grandpa Donald might fume if you reject Donald in favor of the more stylish Donovan for your son. But honor grandma Donna or aunt Dawn with a little Donovan, and chances are she’ll be thrilled.
Based on the most popular names of the 1970s and 80s, here are some thoughts about how you might name a son, Pinkett-Smith style. The girls’ list is up next week. Add your additions and suggestions in the comments!
Even if you haven’t hit the multiplex lately, you’ve probably heard that the hammer-wielding Thor is winning critical acclaim and drawing in crowds. Could the movie inspire parents to look north to Norse mythology names for baby name inspiration?
After all, we’ve borrowed from Greek and Roman mythology for generations. From classics like Diana to current favorites like Luna, there’s no shortage of appealing options. Pierce Brosnan has a son called Paris, and Chris Noth named his firstborn Orion.
Norse mythology names are not as well known, and many of them are awkward in English. (Frigg would be downright cruel, no matter how noble the figure.) Most of the list below comes from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, two compilations dating to the thirteenth century, but including much older oral traditions.
Whether you’re a fan of the comic or looking for a name that celebrates your Scandinavian heritage, there are some interesting possibilities to be found.
Astrilde – Invented in the sixteenth century invention as a Norse equivalent of Cupid, she’s not part of the original pantheon, but appears in plenty of poems.
Atla – A minor water goddess.
Edda – Several theories explain why Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson chose to name his collection the Prose Edda. One of the most popular theories is that it comes from a Latin phrase meaning “I compose.” The Edda Awards are Reykjavik’s answer to the Oscars.
Christmas seems to arrive sooner every year. Once again, I am running frantically to cross things off the list, get the baking done, trim the tree (first we have to get that tree…), and find the ever elusive Christmas stockings before it’s too late. Some may have bigger –or smaller– things on their minds this season. An impending birth, perhaps? If your new child shares a birthday with the most famous baby in the world, you may be tempted to incorporate the season somehow into their name. There’s a lot more to holiday baby naming than Nicholas and Noel. Here are a few ideas that might help broaden the list:
Names related to the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus:
Eve– For the night before