Wharton was one of the first authors to write about this period, and she knew it well, having grown up in it. Her books are about not only high society – the parties, the travel, the social deals – but also the private life that went on behind it. Love affairs, secret debts, scandalous behavior, it’s all there.
By Abby Sandel
Literary baby names are big – just look at Emma and Harper. Some of the most interesting influences come from novels aimed at younger readers. YA – young adult – literature has given us Luna (from Harry Potter), boosted Hazel (from The Fault in Our Stars), and exposed a generation of future namers to some dazzling possibilities.
There’s no shortage of series with fascinating characters and the names to match. Several of them – like the remade fairytale adventures of Cinder – could turn into movies, too. When that happens, it’s even more likely that an unusual name might catch on. Hunger Games-inspired names like Finnick and Primrose are already making more parents’ shortlists.
If you’ve read a book by the great Toni Morrison, chances are you’ll remember some of her characters’ names. From vivid nicknames to evocative biblical names, it’s easy to believe there’s a story behind each one.
Morrison’s novels tell of African-American communities, from the time of slavery to the present. One of the issues she explores is the loss of African Americans’ identities and heritage, and how to reclaim them. Names play a huge part in this, as you might expect.
Change a person’s name, as slave owners did, and you take away their identity and cut them off from their ancestors. Once that connection is lost, how do free African Americans get it back? Should they accept the names they have been given, or choose their own names and forge a new heritage?
By Rachel Lyon
I have long been interested in the origin and function of pen names. A pseudonym can be a mask to hide behind, or a tool by which to play a sort of game. It can be a political statement, an aesthetic declaration, or an alternate identity that is grown into over time. Pseudonyms can give writers the freedom to argue a position they don’t quite believe, or the courage to say the otherwise unspeakable. And they can carry hidden homages to other names of other notable men and women.
I’m a name nerd.
True story: In college, I spent hours compiling data for a study on the attractiveness of male and female names. Amanda? Very attractive. Mildred? Not so much. Ken was more attractive than Keith, while Liam was about as attractive as Levi. By the end of the study, I had an Iliad-length research paper and a major caramel-macchiato addiction.
Believe it or not, even after all of that research, I still get excited to dream up the perfect names for the characters in my books. Finding just the right character name actually helps a story start to take shape in my mind. Since I have a tendency to get stuck on finding the perfect name (Maura or Mara? Lila or Lily?), I try to break the process down into just three steps.