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Guest blogger: Sandy Curtis

22 November 2015

Sandy CurtisWhat’s in a name?

When my parents took me to be baptised, the parish priest of the small country town we lived in asked what they’d decided to call me.

‘Jennifer,’ Mum replied.

Imagine her shock when this eccentric old Irishman refused to baptise me with that name. Apparently an actress named Jennifer Jones had, a short time earlier, starred in a very ‘steamy’ movie (steamy for those days), and he obviously seemed to think that starting me off in life with her name would lead me down a similar path to sin.

So with family and friends waiting in the church, Mum and Dad had to come up with a new name in a hurry.

When Mum told me about this rocky start to my identity, it made me wonder how our name might influence the way we view ourselves, and the way others see us. Do the memories of people we’ve known make us think of certain names in a certain way? Does this mindset spill over into our perception of characters’ names when we read?

A couple of years ago, when I was writing Grievous Harm, I had a minor character who kept telling me that he needed his own story. The trouble was, I’d given him a false name for the job he had to do as an undercover agent. I knew that name wasn’t ‘him’, so after racking my brains for ages with no luck, I asked the wonderful ARRA members for their opinions based on the character traits I’d given him.

The suggestions amazed me. Such variety. So many different reasons for offering the names, and definitely quite a few who said the character traits reminded them of someone and so that’s why they’d thought of that name.

The suggestions were good, but none of them hit that ‘spot’ that told me that was my character’s name. Until Debbie offered ‘Ryder’. And then it all fell into place for me. ‘Ryder’ was his name all right, but his surname. His mother had given him a first name that made his school life hell, and his second name didn’t offer an escape from taunting either. Ryder learned to defend himself from his tormenters, but in the end he decided it was easier to call himself by his surname than to keep getting into trouble for fighting with his classmates. Once I had the right name for him, the rest of his background evolved smoothly.

Getting the names right for my recently print-released romance, The Marriage Merger, was easy in comparison. The hero went through the whole story as ‘Branton’, but the name just didn’t ring true to me, so a change to ‘Braden’ helped resolve that problem. The heroine’s name, Jenna, suited her perfectly, though she doesn’t deserve the nickname ‘Jinx’ that her brother had given her. But it does allow for a h/h introduction that’s a bit different:

The Marriage Merger“His sister!”

He ran assessing eyes over the tailored navy slacks hugging her long legs and the long-sleeved white silk blouse that moulded gently around her full breasts. His gaze lingered there just long enough to bring a flush to her cheeks before it travelled up her pale neck to the crown of curly dark auburn hair and back to her eyes.

“Sea-green,” he murmured, voice so soft it could have been a caress. His look of surprise was quickly replaced by suspicion. “You can’t be Jeff’s sister. She’s gawky, skinny …” his voice trailed away as his eyes returned to her figure and she read the thought that said there was no way her womanly curves could ever be called skinny.

She groaned. “Don’t tell me Jeff still carries that dreadful photo in his wallet.”

If she had blushed before it was nothing to the deep colour that suffused her face now. She had been sixteen when Jeff had taken that awful photo of her. She’d been a late developer and the camera’s truthful eye had captured her thinness, the lanky limbs not yet filled out, her hair a long unruly mop of flame that hadn’t yet darkened to the more attractive auburn.

A hint of amusement lightened his expression. “And your name is Jinx.”

It was too much. She would kill Jeff when she caught up with him. Rip his secret-spilling tongue out of his head and strangle him with it. Bad enough he had shown that dreadful photo to this attractive man but he had obviously discussed her childhood exploits as well. “My name is Jenna. Jinx is a nickname Jeff gave me a long time ago. I wasn’t aware he still used it.”

Because Braden has a preconceived idea of Jenna’s abilities, it leads to some interesting situations, especially as Jenna tries to prove she is no longer that awkward teenager. Further on in the story, I relate what happened that led to Jeff giving her the nickname.

So I’d like to ask readers, what do you do if you come across a character name that doesn’t fit with your perception of what that character is like? The most interesting answer will win an ebook of The Marriage Merger. The giveaway will close on 29 November. (The giveaway is now closed. The winners was Malvina.)

Sandy has three contemporary romances e-published by Ormiston Press under their Lavish imprint, with The Marriage Merger recently released in print, and seven romantic suspense novels with Clan Destine Press, all as ebooks but the latest two are also in print.

You can find Sandy here: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

7 Comments
  1. Malvina permalink
    23 November 2015 9:41 am

    Sandy, I love my unusual name: it’s Celtic, Mum found it in a story in the English Women’s Weekly when she was pregnant with me. I would have been Malcolm if I was a boy, so the M’s have it. I’ve spent my life spelling my name to other people, and I now answer to anything that vaguely resembles it when people stumble over the pronunciation, like Miranda, Marina, Melinda, and so on. At least they try. Funnily enough I don’t like it shortened – it’s such a beautiful name it’s a crime to shorten it. People who call me Mal on first acquaintance get a polite correction. If they do it again they get a less polite correction. If they do it again they are so not my friend. (Kidding, but you get the point.)

    I love character names in books, I find they become the character indeed. I can totally understand you changing a name to ‘fit’ your character. And I think you would have been a lovely ‘Jennifer’ – that’s my daughter’s middle name, it’s just lovely – but so is Sandy. Wonder what that priest’s name was?…

    • Sandy permalink
      25 November 2015 10:39 am

      Malvina, I really like your name and I’ve often wondered at its origins. The Celts often had very fluid names that rolled off the tongue.
      Mum’s passed on now and although she told me the priest’s name I have forgotten. I’ll have to ask one of my older brothers.

  2. lynette williams permalink
    23 November 2015 8:31 am

    my name was supposed to be Lynn but when my father went to register me he was told that was a boys name & as my mother’s name was Annette he added ette to me so I ended up Lynette—–LynW

    • Sandy permalink
      25 November 2015 10:41 am

      Isn’t it funny that so many names can be for either boys or girls. Les, Lyn, Bev. In my women’s fiction (I’m still trying to find a publishing home for it) I called the main male character Kirby and my daughter said, “That’s a girl’s name,” but I’m sure it’s another of those either/or names.
      Do you friends call you Lynette or Lyn?

  3. Sandy permalink
    22 November 2015 10:00 am

    Oh, Helen, that’s so funny about Ron’s name. It’s good his mother is able to laugh about it, but I bet there were some terse words at the time🙂

    Did Ron’s dad ever explain why he changed the name?

    I think all authors try to make sure their characters have appropriate names. I know I am relieved when a character tells me his or her name straight away, but sometimes I struggle with finding exactly the right one. Guess it’s a bit like naming your children – we had a name picked out, but when our daughter was born that name didn’t suit her so we changed it slightly and it worked🙂

    • helensibbritt permalink
      22 November 2015 12:55 pm

      Sandy

      Ronald was the name he liked but his mother liked Paul his father had said OK to Paul but when the crunch came he couldn’t LOL and his middle name is after one of his father’s brothers

      Have Fun
      Helen

  4. helensibbritt permalink
    22 November 2015 9:25 am

    Hi Sandy

    What a great story about your name the same thing kinda happened to my Hubby his mother named him Paul but when his father went to register the birth he changed it to Ronald LOL so Ron it has been for 60 years his mother always laughed when the subject was bought up🙂

    I think if I come across a character that has a name that doesn’t fit I just go along with it or work out a nick name of some sort in my mind🙂 although I must say it doesn’t happen very often🙂

    Have Fun
    Helen

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