Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

Barely awake, the coffees deep brown flavour hugs my tongue briefly and slides down my throat, reminding me of “Koffee,” Mira’s dog from my novel, “The Trade Off.” 

Koffee, has always been Koffee and I've always known that was her name. At 6 weeks old, her silky white coat was decorated in golden brown splashes much the colour of a Latté, the spots starting on her nose, dripping down her back and encompassing her tail; not to mention, she’s since developed a decided preference for the beverage and a tendency to sneak sips when Mira isn’t paying attention.  
Finding the right name, like finding the perfect word or term to describe something, doesn’t always happen right away. Sometimes names come more easily, intuitively appearing in the text as I type, while at other times as with Mira ( and Tristan, assigning a name results in a mini case of mistaken identity. On both occasions I forced the name, rather than allowing it to come to me in it’s own time, by naming the character before I began writing the story, thinking it was about one character only to find out I “got the name wrong" and discovering the story was about a different character entirely. 
So how does one come up with a name? In the case of my postcard story, “Shattered,” about man drowning in his heartbreak after discovering his girlfriend sleeping with his now ex-best friend. I had originally used Simon, a character in my short story “Memory Files,” when I first started writing the piece because I thought a bar would be a good place for a scene in the story. Once I was done I realized that the scene was instead a complete 250 word story about someone else and I needed a name. I began by looking baby names and their meanings, finally coming up with Tristan.

I always know when I’ve discovered the right name because it rolls off my tongue like a savory treat with the perfect blend of sounds to describe an essence of character not found any other way; it perfectly fits the character. It sounds like them. Sometimes finding the right time involves more thought, research or learning more about the character, providing moments of discovery that are both elating and satisfying as I begin my day.

About the photo: Taken late June 2010 at the headwaters of the Takhini River where it flows out of Kusawa Lake. The name, Kusawa means "long windy water." The glacier fed lake is approximately 37 miles long is frequently white-caped by winds.

1 comment:

  1. I know this, how a character´s name has to sound exactly like himself! So I sometimes create a completely new one, one I´ve never heard of. It´s so much fun!