Naming the characters in a novel is quite similar to naming one’s children. The task is huge. What if you tell everyone her name will be Clementine, and then she is born and she looks exactly like an Alexandra instead? And, you’ve been calling her Clementine all these months. You hand-painted the giant “C” for her nursery and even pre-signed a few Christmas cards with all three of your names.
In a novel, of course, the writer can theoretically change a character’s name at any time. Except, you can’t. It is exactly the same thing. In a historical novel I’ve been writing for decades, I tried to change my little shepherd boy from Jonas to Reuben. It isn’t working. I trip over the name every time I read a section. I’m going back to Jonas.
All that to say, I’m thrilled when something comes together. During the brewing days of my new novel, The Marvel House, I gave lots of thought to names. I didn’t have the story clear in my mind yet, but I suspected names and their meanings would become important. (I was correct.) So, on one long trip with a carload of granddaughters, I asked for suggestions of character names just to pass the time.
Ada Jewel snatched up my phone and started recording the ideas. By the time we stopped for lunch, every character in this novel had exactly the right name. (Plus, we have a few left over for other books.)
A couple of years ago, those names were just blips on a screen. Today, they are so dear to me I might include Aspen or Quinn on my Christmas list before I remember they live only in my imagination. And, I hope, in yours.