Guest blogger: Sandy Curtis
What’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:
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.