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Readers and Authors Talk...

Liz Lipperman | What's In A Name?

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My grandkids are getting to the age where we feel comfortable taking them on excursions without their parents. In August, hubby and I decided we would pick up the two boys (ages 6 and 3) on a Thursday night and have them sleep and take them to a water park nearby. The boys sleep together at home, so naturally, they wanted to do that here...with me. Have you ever slept with a 3 and a 6 year old in one bed? Legs and arms go flying, bodies somehow get upside down, and both boys are jammed as close to me as they can get. I get about 8 inches on the edge of the bed, and even then, I usually have squatters. That's a whole other story, though.

Anyway, the six-year old (Grayson) fell asleep watching some cartoon, but the three year-old (Caden) was not about to give up without a fight. After all, he's at Nana's house, and all rules go out the window. What happens at Nana's ...stays at Nana's. After the cartoon ended, I shut off the TV and of course, he fussed. Cuddling him close, I told him the story of Goldilocks. When I was finished, he wanted one more story, so I gave in and decided on The Three Pigs. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: There were three piggies, brothers like you and Grayson, and they all decided to build a house. The first piggy didn't want to spend a lot of time on it, so he...

Caden: What's the piggy's name, Nana?"

Me: "He doesn't have a name, Caden. He's just the first piggy. Anyway, he finds straw..."

Caden: But what's the piggy's name?'

Me: "Piggy number one. Anyway, he builds this straw house, and before long..."

Caden: "No, what's the piggy's name, Nana?"

By this time, I can hear the frustration in his voice, but I'm getting frustrated, too. I want to huff and puff these piggy houses down and get to sleep since we had a big day planned for Friday.

Me: "He's Mister Porker..."

Caden: "That's not a name," he shouted.

Me: "Okay. Okay. Joe Piggy."

He got quiet for a while, then said, "Oh."

So, I finish the story with this scenario repeated for Piggy Number Two, who is Fred, BTW. By the time I got to Piggy Number Three, I went straight to Sammy.

I was telling the pig story to hubby the next day and having a good laugh over it when I realized there was a lesson in all this.

NAMES ARE IMPORTANT!!

When a reader is getting into a story, they need to identify a character with something. The name that is chosen sometimes conjures up a little back-story in our minds. For instance, if I called a young boy Winston, you would probably automatically think smart and rich and probably British. Don't ask me where I came up with that, but that's what I would think. Johnny, on the other hand, flashes in my mind as an energetic, ornery kid with freckles from the many... "and the teacher asked Johnny"  jokes.

Since descriptive writing is not my longest suit, names become even more important. I have a lot of characters in my books, and I introduce most of them in the first three chapters in my setup. It becomes more important than ever to give them names a reader can remember by his/her personality or quirks. In LIVER LET DIE, the first book of my Clueless Cook Series, my heroine is Jordan McAllister.  If you said she might be an Irish girl with red hair and feisty, you would be dead on. Unfortunately, you can't tell she's clueless in the kitchen from her name. Rosie LaRue, on the other hand, makes me think of either a stripper or a really fun gal. Jordan's crazy neighbor is the latter, a fiftyish hippy-like woman who wears tie dyed t-shits and makes and sells jewelry on eBay. Betty White will play her in the movie!!!

Are you starting to see what I'm talking about? Names really are important, but sometimes I just like the way they sound. In BEEF STOLEN-OFF, book 2, I introduce Rusty Morales, a hunky cowboy and Lucas Santana, a wealthy ranch owner who has an eye for pretty girls. Neither one makes you think one is gorgeous and the other is a rich womanizer. Oh well!

And now I'd like to know if names are important to you, too, or is it just me? What character name really stood out for you and gave you a sense of that person right off the bat? Inquiring minds want to know.

But first I have to confess the outcome of my Joe/Fred/Sammy Piggy story with that adorable grandson of mine. When I finished, I said, "Well, did you like that?"

He thought for a minute, then said, "You don't tell it like Miss Ronda does."

Seriously? The little toot had just given me my first negative review!!

Tell us what you think about names, do they grab you or not? Two people who post below will win a copy each of LIVER LET DIE

 

 

Comments

51 comments posted.

Re: Liz Lipperman | What's In A Name?

Names are very important. It is one of the gifts that parents give their children, and they should do that very carefully.
Blessings,
Marjorie
(Marjorie Carmony 7:26am November 5, 2011)

Names are incredibly important. In life & literature.
(Mary Preston 7:49am November 5, 2011)

Names are important. We named my son David after my
grandfather who had passed. The problem is I have a
brother, an uncle and a cousin named David as well. My son
chooses to go by his middle name. When we named our
daughter Nora we thought it would be unique. She had a whole different set of issues with it.
(Donna Antonio 8:04am November 5, 2011)

Names are essential. While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet it just wouldn't always work.
(Pam Howell 8:42am November 5, 2011)

They are important and should not be given frivolously. Why someone would name their child "Apple" to me is just plain stupid. Doesn't make me think well of the parents and consequently who would take seriously someone named after a fruit?
(Karen Gervasi 8:43am November 5, 2011)

A name is how we know who we are. Whatever we do in life reflects on our
name, good or bad. It can give us something to live up to or stain--the choice is
ours.
(Sandra Spilecki 8:53am November 5, 2011)

I have always believed that names are important. Names can really tell you about a person and they have a great way of fitting some people just perfectly. Besides thinking of someone you might know or of a famous actor or fictional character, think about the personality behind the name. Chances are good that you will eventually identify similar character traits between people who have the same first name. So yes, names are important!
(Diane Brixius 9:14am November 5, 2011)

Names are extremely important--my name is Suzan---not Suzanne, just Susan with a Z---and it makes me just a little different which I like. Book names are important, too---ever since I saw your book name "Liver Let Die" I've been dying to read it since I immediately knew it was a cozy, my favorite kind of book.
(Sue Farrell 11:27am November 5, 2011)

I do like names--and your book titles are great! Thanks for a fun column.
(G S Moch 12:08pm November 5, 2011)

Sometimes names do grab my attention, and other times names that are made up for books are so far-fetched that they actually make me burst out loud with laughter!! I wonder how far out to left field the author has to go to come up with the name, but then I realize that in this day and age, it's got to be very hard for an author to keep coming up with names for their characters. I don't think that last names would be too hard. Phone books are always at their disposal, but first names have to sound normal. It's just my opinion. It was an adorable story about your grandsons, and I'm really surprised that you would ask your readers about their opinions regarding names. It's also very considerate, on your part. Thank you for asking our opinion. Can't wait to read your book!!
(Peggy Roberson 1:22pm November 5, 2011)

I had to laugh at your experience with your little guy, tough critic. Names don't always make much of an impact on me unless they are very unusual.
(G. Bisbjerg 1:34pm November 5, 2011)

Names don't grab me so much as their traits and personality. I just want them to suit. I'm more likely to notice a "bad" name though, whereas a "good" name I sort of take for granted and almost all of the books I've read the names didn't bother me.
(Na S 1:35pm November 5, 2011)

What is a name? It is what identifies us as an individual and helps build our character. I was given my mother's and my grandmother's name as first and middle. As I got into my teens, I started to write the names together as one and that is who I am. I love my name and respond quickly when it is used. I will never forget, from this day forward, that the three little piggies are now Joe, Fred and Sammy.
An absolutely precious story.
(Rosemary Simm 2:03pm November 5, 2011)

I know you had oodles of fun with your little ones. I enjoy being around children and can relate to experience. Yes, names are important and seem to identify a person.
(Anna Speed 2:09pm November 5, 2011)

Names mean a lot and usually help me envison a part of the characters' personalities. It's not hard to live up to a name like Red.
(Alyson Widen 2:39pm November 5, 2011)

Names are very important. The names of the characters or the title of the book. If the name of the characters are wrong, the story won't click. This also go for the book as well.

Now as the name of the person, it has to match what our expectations of the individual are. If the name is all wrong, the individual is most likely would want to change their name.
(Kai Wong 3:22pm November 5, 2011)

Names given affect children in unexpected ways, all the way through
adulthood. My husband went through all the names in baby books to find
something kids wouldn't make fun of when our children started school but
would still sound important and normal when they grew up.
(Lori Myers 5:09pm November 5, 2011)

Names are important to identify us. They are used to carry on a family name from a grandfather or father that has passed or a grandmother or mother that has passed, etc. in memory of that person to the next generation. Because your grandson needed a name for each pig so he could relate to and identify with, shows the importance of a name even to a small child. They're smart and clever (and also might be looking to make the story last longer, in doing so, because it might let them stay up a little longer)! My mother had three sisters. The first sister, married a guy with the first name, 'John', so did the second sister, then the third sister, my mother, then the fourth sister, broke off her engagement with a guy named, 'John', but found her new soul-mate and you guessed it, his name was also, 'John'. To top that off, my sister, married a guy named, John and my brother named his son, John. That name is getting tired in our family. I forgot to mention, my other brother's middle name is John. One of my son's is named, Shawn, which is a derivative from the name John. So it must have been a strong or important name from years ago, used frequently. In book titles, it gives a lot of character and yours is very catchy, 'Liver Let Die'. Love the cover also. I saw it in our library with the new books a couple days ago. The mallard duck caught my eye, because my father did a lot of hunting and fishing. I ate a lot of duck, pheasant, geese, and fish growing up. I have to admit, I never thought I'd miss eating all that so often, but I really do, since my father is deceased. Love the book cover very much and one I will have to read!
(Linda Luinstra 5:15pm November 5, 2011)

A name does tend to give me a picture in my head of what that person
may be like, but it's not their only defining factor. It's only a way to get
their attention.
Clever title on the new book! :)
(Debbie Burdeen 5:43pm November 5, 2011)

Names are important in literature Dicken's has some of the best
(Catherine Myers 5:45pm November 5, 2011)

I just loved the way your grandson insisted on names for the characters. Small children can be very insistent on naming everything because they identify with the names. Names are very important. In books I can often picture the character that goes with the name. And we always have to be careful when naming children. Some names just do not go well together. And never forget how cruel children can be when another child has an odd sounding name. Or if their initials spell out something that you would not want used as a nickname. (In my family we just missed having a D.O.G., a M.I.T., and a B.U.G.) And I knew as soon as I read the name 'Lever Let Die' that it was a cozy my avorite genre of mysteries.
(Nancy L Gessner 5:52pm November 5, 2011)

Names are like a song's first notes. A song has to have a musical hook to keep a listener listening. A character's name is the same for me...I need a hook.
(Joanne Hicks 6:21pm November 5, 2011)

names are important.i was named after jennifer jones and middle name came for my dad..
(Jennifer Beck 6:57pm November 5, 2011)

Wow! I am so late for my own party!! I have to confess to Internet problems all morning and said three year old grandson's 4th birthday party today. I am so glad all of you were thoughtful enough to leave comments. I'll try to get to them all. But first, I want to say thank you to the wonderful people at Fresh Fiction for letting me come and play with them today. I will check the comments for a few days in case any of you are as late as I am. And there is always email if you want to ask me a question or just to comment. www.liz@lizlipperman.com
(Liz Lipperman 7:30pm November 5, 2011)

Names are very important, its something you live with for the rest of your life. Too bad some parents don't take that into consideration.
(Sheila True 7:30pm November 5, 2011)

@Margery - I agree parents should be really aware of the names they give their kids. Thanks so much for commenting.

@Mary - who could forget Huck Finn, Scarlett O'Hara, and a slew of other great names? Thanks for commenting.

@Donna - I know what you mean about thinking you were naming your child something unique. We were in Taiwan when I had my daughter, and we named her Nicole for that very reason. We later found out it was one of the top names for baby girls that year. Sheesh!! Thanks for sharing your story.

@Pam - love your rose analogy. It is so true. Thanks for reminding us.

@Karen- I'd like to think Gwyneth had a good reason--family name--I agree she didn't really think that through. Thanks for commenting.
(Liz Lipperman 7:40pm November 5, 2011)

@Sandra - I agree sometimes a name carries an added reason to live responsibly, especially if one is named after a special person. I also agree everyone has to choose which way he'll take his life--good or bad. Thanks for commenting.

@Diane - yes, think about a name like Junior. For me that conjures up a picture of a small town boy who has big footsteps to follow--his dad's. Or a girl named Penelope me has me thinking of a sophisticated, book-smart female. I know there is no basis for these judgements, but it does show how a name can sometimes be a stereotype. Characters in a story especially need really good names. Thanks for commenting.

@Sue - I love Suzan with a Z, and it does make you special. Thanks for the LIVER LET DIE comment. I hope you do get a chance to read it and fall in love with my characters.

@G S - What a nice thing to say. Hope you get a chance to read my book.
(Liz Lipperman 7:51pm November 5, 2011)

@Peggy - I hope you do get to read my book. I think you'd like it. And you are so right about some names being so far out in left field, it's laughable. Thanks for commenting.

@G - he really is a tough critic. I had to share that story with his preschool teacher, Miss Ronda, to let her know she's getting the story telling right. Apparently, I need lessons!! In one of the reviews for LLD, the reviewer commented that I was a great storyteller. Hope she isn't reading this blog!

@Na - Unless the name is really wrong for the character traits, they usually don't bother me either. Thanks for commenting.

@Rosemary - I love that you combined your mother's and grandmother's names. What a beautiful tribute to both of them. Like you I will never think of those pigs as anything but Joe, Fred, and Sammy! Thanks for commenting.

@Anna - thanks for commenting. I agree wholeheartedly.

@Alyson - LOL. A name like red makes me thing of an Irish kid. Thanks for commenting.
(Liz Lipperman 8:00pm November 5, 2011)

@Kai - I have been known to change my characters names after I got into the book and saw their personality emerging. Thanks for commenting.

@Lori - your hubby is a smart man to have thought that far ahead. Sometimes I wonder, "What were they thinking?" Thanks for commenting.

@Linda - I think you may have just hit the nail on the head with your suggestion that my little guy was looking for ways to stay up later. And wow! All those Johns in your family. I'm curious what part of the country had my book in the library. I love it! As for the duck, he plays an important part in the subplot. Check it out.

@Debbie - thanks for the comment about my titles. I have to confess LIVER LET DIE was my editor's idea. I had Ducks in a Row (how boring!!) BEEF STOLEN-OFF and MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT are mine, though. I love that some of you automatically knew it was a cozy by the title.

@Catherine - Ooh, Dickens did have some of the best. Thanks for commenting.

@Nancy - unfortunately, you are so right about how cruel children can be, especially about names and appearances. I think everyone should take a moment to really think before assigning a name, both in real life and in fiction. And I hope you get a chance to read LIVER LET DIE.
(Liz Lipperman 8:15pm November 5, 2011)

@Joanne - a lovely musical analogy--and so true. Like you l need a hook. Thanks for reminding me of that.

@Jennifer - IMO your parents were so smart. they gave you a beautiful name like Jennifer and then added a bit of your heritage with your dad's middle name. Kudos to them.

@Sheila - too bad, indeed. some of the celebrities need to spend a little more time planning their names, IMO. Thanks for commenting.
(Liz Lipperman 8:20pm November 5, 2011)

I usually like siimple names but I'm ok with any name as long as I can pronounce it. If it's a strange name I wish the author would at least once say how it is pronounce, otherwise I struggle through the whole book which can pull me out of the story.
(Jeanne Sheats 8:20pm November 5, 2011)

yes... some names give me an impression of the character... Your boy is so right. :)
(May Pau 8:21pm November 5, 2011)

@Jeanne - that's a dram good suggestion, Jeanne. It could be in dialogue or in the narrative. Thanks for commenting.

@May - can you share an example? I'm thinking Rhett Butler, Dirty Harry, Edward Scissorhands, etc.
(Liz Lipperman 8:57pm November 5, 2011)

I do think names are important - in life as well as books.
I was once talking to a woman in a credit office about my
daughter's name (Kendall). I was telling her that I wanted a
name that wasn't cutesy so my daughter would be taken
seriously in the "real world". The woman said she knew what
I meant - her name was Taffy and she felt like she had to
work twice as hard to succeed.
(Michele Lawrence 9:58pm November 5, 2011)

I believe a name shouldn't be so long that the kids don't have a problem spelling it. And don't name them after a fruit tree. Also take name and change the spelling so much that people can't spell it.
(Patricia Kasner 10:11pm November 5, 2011)

I think parents should really think when they name their children, they have to live with all their lives. Thank you for giving me a chance to win your book.
(Linda Hall 10:29pm November 5, 2011)

Ah, the name game! Names really do matter but not for every character or even every book. A great example, Sherrilyn Kenyon named a character Acheron. He gets called Ash by the other characters. The name tells you nothing about him BUT once you read about him, Acheron is the only name that would work! There are tons of other characters in the universe, but I can only remember a handful of names. I read a book last year that has stuck with me. I can't remember a single character name. I think there were maybe 8 characters in the whole book. But the names were meaningless. Of course, some authors have fallen into using crazy names to avoid repeating names. Honestly, that is just nerve wracking! How can I read a book if I can't even pronounce the names?!
(Jennifer Beyer 10:43pm November 5, 2011)

I named my daughters old fashioned names so they could have a choice of nicknames.
(MaryAnne Banks 10:49pm November 5, 2011)

Names are critical to the being, behavior, and maturation of a living person, but the names of fictional persons are critical to the reader's perception and frequently lead a story. Parents, guardians, novelists bear equal responsibility in influencing the outcomes of named individuals and novelists frequently inspire the naming of the living. Even Shakespeare commented. You are spot on!
(Carla Schuller 11:14pm November 5, 2011)

@Michelle - I hate hearing that Taffy has to work harder just because of her name. Mothers out there--are you listening?? Thanks for sharing that story, Michelle. and I love the name Kendall.

@Patricia - All I can add to your comment is AMEN! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

@Linda - Again, amen! And fingers crossed for you to win.

@Jennifer - You mentioned the great Sherrilyn Kenyon. I had the pleasure of signing with her at a charity signing for literacy. Great lady-great names. And I hear you on names that you can't even pronounce. Thanks for the comment.

@MaryAnne - my son named his daughters old fashioned names, Eleanor and Alice. Ellie fits her perfetly as does baby Alice Elizabethan's name. What are your daughter's names? And it's funny that you mention nicknames. I think that is almost as important to me when I name my characters as the actual name.

@Carla - So true. Thank you for reminding us of this.
(Liz Lipperman 11:46pm November 5, 2011)

Names grab me, especially the unusual ones. I put their personality with their name.
(Susan Navidad 7:25am November 6, 2011)

@Susan - I love unusual names, too, but I also like the familiar ones. I write about Texas,so I love the true Southern ones like Brenda Sue, Bobby Joe, Jake, Colt, etc. Thanks for commenting.
(Liz Lipperman 7:51am November 6, 2011)

Thanks for sponsoring the Give away!
(Cheryl Stillwell 8:22am November 6, 2011)

Like most of the responders here, I find names important, too. I think most people do. I know of the agonies we went through finding the right names for kids in the family. Most of us wouldn't be likely to name our children the same as someone we can't stand. In our family, we have a certain penchant for choosing names beginning with--or including a K: my brother is Karsten, a cousin is Kirsten, and my nieces are Kristyn, Kathryn and Anika. My older brother was aptly named Wilfried (meaning: wants peace) which he did after his somewhat erratic teenage years. And my own name? Let's just say that I've got used to it, and it goes well with my oldest friend's name, Sigrid, whom I've known since Kindergarten when I was maybe a little over two. I'm glad my mother decided not to call me Evelyn, the name my parents had decided on before my father went off to war. Not that I have anything against the name, Evelyn; in some ways it would have been much easier. I wouldn't have to repeat and spell it every time I mention it. And I know all about getting teased about a name. I, who've always hated tobacco, was often called by words beginning with cig... Ugh. Fortunately, that stopped when I became an adult, although that's when I was often confused with "Sigmund" and addressed in letters as Mr. In fact, when I once sent some money to my university for a subscription, they took it as payment for some conference of engineers or the like. They never rectified that and I never got my subscription.
(Sigrun Schulz 9:36am November 6, 2011)

Liz, you were curious as to what part of the country had your book in their library. It's in southern Wisconsin (close to the Illinois border). We have a great library and it also has 55 computers available for patrons for daily use. If they don't have a book, they will order it. Incidentally, my mother told me she chose my name while listening to a popular song with my name.
(Linda Luinstra 3:37pm November 6, 2011)

@Cheryl - thanks for commenting. Fingers crossed.

@Sigrun - What a beautiful name. Does it have history? I hate it that you were teased because of it, though. I love Evelyn, too. It's a great old fashioned name with a wonderful nickname--Evie. Hmm. That might be a new character for me. I know several families who pick a certain letter and name all the kids using that letter. Thanks for sharing that story.

@Linda - thanks for telling me this. I asked because a librarian from a small town in Texas emailed me a few weeks back and said her local librarian had already ordered it. I'm tickled that a paperback like that showed up in a library, but I got a great review in Library Journal, so I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, thanks for letting me know. And I've been racking my brain for songs with Linda in the lyrics and can't come up with a single one. Put me out of my misery and tell me.
(Liz Lipperman 6:57pm November 6, 2011)

Names are so important. Oftentimes I remember the names I love and hate from books more than the plots!
(Tara Smith 9:17pm November 6, 2011)

Yes the names do grab me at times, take Jazz and Ryder, don't they just sound perfect together?
(Lisa Kendall 11:21pm November 6, 2011)

@Tara - how interesting that you sometimes remember both good and bad names more than the story. Take note, all you authors reading this!! I am.

@Lisa - I definitely love those names. And to go a little further, I would say they are from a YA. Am I right?
(Liz Lipperman 11:24am November 7, 2011)

Liz - In reply to your question about songs with the name, Linda, in the lyrics, I recall, one of my favorites which is, 'Give Me Three Steps' by Leonard Skynard. There are at least three that I've heard many times on the radio, but I can't recall the other two right now, only that one where he's singing about, 'with a girl named, Linda Lou.' This is my name Linda Lou. The song my mother named me after is a different one from many, many years ago, and I don't know or recall the name of it. Hope this helps ease your mind! Thanks for asking!!!
(Linda Luinstra 5:43pm November 9, 2011)

names I think give a character personhood. It helps to flesh them out in the minds of the readers. They are very important to a story. Can one forget Professor Moriarty, Scarlet Ohara, or Ebenezer Scrooge?
(Heidi Durham 5:04am November 12, 2011)

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