Category: writer’s guide to names

Some of you know that I have another writing life as a novelist: Babes in Captivity and Suburbanistas are two of the novels I’ve published — my new one, called The Tiny Forever, is coming out in February 2012.   One of my novel-writing mentors was the mystery writer Elizabeth George, who taught me that a novel begins with the creation of its characters.  And the characters start with their names.

The right name is essential for building the other qualities that will make a character come alive on the page, George believes (and I believe too).  When you’re working on a piece of fiction — and I know some of you are interested in names primarily as writers, not parents — and the story or book just isn’t coming together, sometimes the problem is that your character has the wrong name.

I decided that might be the problem with my new novel, which I’ve been laboring over for three years now.  One of my three main characters, a flower child whose role in the story unfolds in the late 1970s, was named Lily.  But I wanted her to be tougher than that, I decided: a scrappy tomboy fighting her way through the world.

And so I changed her name to Billie.

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