The considerable problems I have with naming my babies

I’m obsessed late­ly with names. Specif­i­cal­ly, char­ac­ter names. More specif­i­cal­ly, my char­ac­ter names. I don’t have kids, and aside from pos­si­ble upcom­ing pet pur­chas­es (unlike­ly in the short- to mid-term, but yes, my cat’s name will be Mr. Meow­gi, and shut up if you don’t get the ref­er­ence), my sto­ries are my babies, and I’ll name them as I see fit.

In my first nov­el, I delib­er­ate­ly kept the name of my hero Thomas Friesen delib­er­ate­ly flat. Thomas him­self was a wall­flower of sorts, and a name that stood out from the crowd would real­ly not suit his role as observ­er in his own life. Real­ly, Thomas Friesen? It’s the John Smith of Men­non­ite names. Thomas’ name was orig­i­nal­ly Corey, but I couldn’t bring myself at this stage to get so meta with my out­put. I had a lit­tle more fun with the oth­er char­ac­ters, switch­ing their names about on alter­nate flights of whim and bore­dom. Page Adler’s last name was ini­tial­ly Axwor­thy, but it seemed too obvi­ous­ly a pun con­sid­er­ing her over­all hate­ful­ness. Warren’s name was Jacob at one point, and his last name (and Danae’s as well) was Chuback, after a woman I used too work with. Aubrey’s name was sim­i­lar­ly altered from the more exot­ic Goren (I had been watch­ing ER at the time), and Danae was always Danae, after the adorable cyn­ic in the dai­ly com­ic strip Non Sequitur.

Now, with the onset of sec­ond nov­el ner­vous syn­drome (SNNS), I’m torn between want­i­ng to be more brave and unique in my choic­es and sim­ply repeat­ing my aim toward the ordi­nary. My lead char­ac­ter has had his name switched twice already, but I still lean on the side of plain­ness. So far, I’ve set­tled on Lloyd (it does need to be a ‘L’ name), but why not Lan­don, or Lyle, or Lar­ry (eww, too Three’s Com­pa­ny)? Or Leviti­cus? I do have one char­ac­ter with an absolute­ly spec­tac­u­lar appel­la­tion, but he’ll remain a secret for right now, and even so, the name is a com­bi­na­tion of two names I came across in my north­ern Man­i­to­ba adven­ture.

Not in me the brav­ery nec­es­sary to assign a label that func­tions as a des­ig­na­tion to dif­fer­en­ti­ate one­self from the hordes and at the same time some­how cap­tures the qual­i­ty of the char­ac­ter in its con­struc­tion of let­ters and sub­jec­tive def­i­n­i­tions. Do I have the ‘nads to cre­ate a Bil­ly Pil­grim (Slaugh­ter­house 5) or a Pip (Great Expec­ta­tions)? And I don’t mean the obvi­ous­ly weird names asso­ci­at­ed with all things fan­tas­tic and laden with ogres and elves. Watch, I’ll come up with three ser­vice­able names on the spot for the Tolkien wannabes: Grunt Mastick. Herin Morelack. Oggle Blunt­mey­er. Feel free to use those, I’ve got plen­ty more. Wrent­ly Fly­mo­ogy. Carel­l­va Qik­lis. Blrky Wsm­ng.

I know I shouldn’t put too much stock in such things, espe­cial­ly as I’m the all-pow­er­ful deity in these worlds, and what I say goes, and I can always change it lat­er. But I yearn for both the tal­ent and the guts to assign a name that calls atten­tion to itself, yet fits with the scheme and lay­out of the sto­ry. Lionel Ess­rog is a bizarre name, but in the con­text of Jonathan Lethem’s Moth­er­less Brook­lyn, it is per­fec­tion. Dit­to Lethem’s dynam­ic duo in The Fortress of Soli­tude, Dylan Erbus and Min­gus Rude. Man, I freak­ing LOVE the name Min­gus Rude.

Or per­haps the more overt­ly strange, the Dick­en­sian; grotesque­ly ornate names of great heft and stature. Lau­ren Groff’s The Mon­sters of Tem­ple­ton had a char­ac­ter named Mar­maduke Tem­ple, anoth­er bur­dened with Aristab­u­lus Budge. I don’t have the nov­el in front of me, so I may be mis­tak­en about the sec­ond, but it was some­thing like that. I adore those names, some­how ridicu­lous yet con­vey­ing an air of yes­ter­year author­i­ty.

Yes, I know that very often char­ac­ter names become icon­ic because of the nov­els they’re in, not because of the spe­cif­ic make­up of con­so­nants and vow­els. Why is Hold­en Caulfield a great name? Because Catch­er in the Rye is great. Har­ry Pot­ter doesn’t appear the most pre­pos­sess­ing of names, but try telling that to the vast hordes of cra­zies. Ian Flem­ing chose James Bond as his hero’s name because it was the most bor­ing name he could think of, yet who out there doesn’t think he’s the epit­o­me of dan­ger-cool?

So, char­ac­ter names. Your thoughts? What are your favourites, and why? Gimme some feed­back, I’m dyin’ here.