What’s in a Name?

I love this list of beloved literary characters who were almost named something else. I can’t imagine the brightest witch of her age being called “Hermione Puckle.”

When I first started The Chance You Won’t Return, main character Alexandra “Alex” Winchester was almost called Winnie. As in Winnie Cooper or Winnie Foster. Both of which are characters that live in a historical setting.

Not exactly what I was looking for in my contemporary YA novel.

I can’t remember how I settled on Alex, exactly, but that was what she became almost immediately after I decided I needed to change her name. It felt like her–casual, kind of sporty, someone who’s used to blending in while still being a thoughtful observer.

I settled on Winchester pretty quickly, too. The story’s set in a fictional small town in Virginia and, while driving down for my second year at UVa, my car broke down in Winchester, VA. It felt like a little high five to a town that got me on the road again.

Do your character names tend to evolve over time, or do they spring to mind fully named?

(image: multisanti)

4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Depends on the character. I can’t really begin writing until I know the main character’s first name, definitely, and that is usually one of the first things that spring to mind when I get the germ of a story idea, before I even write anything down, and I always keep it because it just fits. Then I usually have a few chapters to kind of think over what the most fitting last name is. Other more minor characters though, often have the wrong name and I don’t realize it until their characters have more fully evolved through the drafting. After reading through Draft #1, though, I figured out that William was a better Emerson. And that Lavender’s real name was Thora.

  2. Mostly the names come to me and I don’t change them, but my current WIP has ground to a halt because I called my female protagonist on the first draft Rebecca but when I came to do the second draft I didn’t think it suited her any more. Unfortunately I can’t decide on a new one. Like the comment above, I can’t write unless I can visualise the main character and the name is part if that (although surnames I’m less fussy about). She’s going to fall for a guy called Alex so it needs to work with that too!

  3. I get a little bit of both. Some of the characters in Serpent in a Cage have the same names they had since I first thought of them in sixth grade, others (usually the less important ones) have changed significantly. I have a character from another book whose name started very differently in attempts to distinguish her from the character that inspired her, only to then have her go through a few name changes that inadvertently made her name remarkably similar to her inspiration. Whoopsies!

    Some of these characters are so fully formed in my head that I can’t imagine them by any other name. I’ve even tried a few times.

  4. I don’t think about names too much, they just come to me. I have a thing for names. I keep a notebook with interesting names. I knew about Margaret Mitchell’s first choice of Pansy, but I didn’t know about the others. Hermione Puckle sounds at least 100 IQ points away from Hermione Granger.

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