Sunday, June 25, 2017

What's in a Name? Guest Post by Sofie Kelly

Sofie Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author and mixed-media artist who writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats Mysteries and, as Sofie Ryan, writes the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Sofie Kelly:
What’s in a Name?

I swipe people’s names. No, I’m not some kind of identity thief who will take out five credit cards in your name and order every single product advertised on late-night TV. But if I like your name, it may end up in one of my books.

As a teenager, I wanted to be named Jennifer. That’s because in my mind, girls named Jennifer had long, flowing hair, kind of like Susan Dey of The Partridge Family. (Yes, I know Susan Dey was not named Jennifer. My teenage logic was not necessarily logical.) I did not have long, flowing hair, although I did briefly have an ill-advised Afro after a home perm that went very wrong. But that’s a story for another day.

For me, names often have identities attached to them. Sometimes when I name a character I also give him or her some of the qualities of the real person with that name. For instance, Idris, a name I used for a dead character in the Magical Cats mysteries, came from a tombstone. The real Idris outlived two wives and buried them side-by-side in a double plot. I began to imagine what he might have been like. Practical, obviously. He didn’t buy a new plot or a new headstone when his second wife died. He used what he had. Not overly sentimental, either, I decided, because otherwise I don’t think he would have left his two wives to rest side-by-side for eternity. When I created the fictional Idris, I gave him the qualities I had imagined for the real man.

Hercules always makes me think of actor Kevin Sorbo, from the campy Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. So when I gave that name to one of the Magical Cats, I also said that’s who he was named for. The fact that Sorbo was born and raised in Minnesota, the state where the Magical Cats mysteries are set, just felt like a sign that Hercules the cat had exactly the right name.

On the other hand, the only thing the fictional Marcus from my books and the real Marcus share is their name. The real Marcus is a talented artist and teacher with a funky style and a great sense of humor. The fictional Marcus is a lot more serious and stiff.

Because names can carry their own baggage with them, sometimes I don’t use a name I like. In one manuscript, I named a con artist Peter and realized my mistake almost immediately. I have a friend named Peter; he is kind and gentle and far more likely to give you the shirt off his back than try to scam you out of yours.

It’s not just associations that make me like a name, though. Sometimes it’s just the way the name sounds. Case in point: Benjarvus Green-Ellis (former running back for the Patriots and the Bengals.) I just like the sound of his name when I say it. I like his nickname too: The Law Firm. Both are probably a bit too distinctive to use in a book, though. Then there’s Siobhan. It’s Irish. I love that the name looks one way and sounds another. And not only do I like Ogden Nash’s name, I like his poetry too. They’re both a little quirky.

Are there any names that have a particular association for you? Or maybe your name is one I’d like to add to my “collection.” Please share.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

When giving a name to an important character I always check what the name anagrams to & what sign the person is. "Clint Eastwood" anagrams to Old West Action! Years ago in a non-writing forum, people were talking about the connotations of certain first names. For example, someone said every Teresa she'd ever known was selfish.