The Book O’ Names

Victoria Schade Writing

I’m a name junkie.

Someone said that writers collect names like a crow collects curiosities and it’s so true. I have a little notebook where I stash the ones I’ve borrowed.

Sure, I do internet searches for minor character names, like “most popular female names in 1950” and “tackiest baby names” (I see you, Jaxyn) but I find my best names out in the real world.

Our trip to England last October provided me with a bonanza. Most came from graveyards and the tombs lining Bath Abbey, but I lifted one from a charming man we met in a pub and another from the name of a real estate brokerage.

I also love scouring the society pages in magazines, a bonanza of are-they-for-real names. I make columns of first names and last names and Frankenstein them together until I come up with something that sounds like it was born from an unholy union of mint julep and Nantucket red pants. They don’t always make it into what I’m working on, but it’s such a fun exercise.

Names are super important to me. I just finished my second book and my main character’s name is a plot point in a bunch of different ways; who she’s named after, what her middle name refers to, how she responds to what people call her, and how her “new” name sounds when you say it quickly. (My agent is reading it at the moment and I’m awaiting feedback with all phalanges crossed. I really like this book!)

I’m currently percolating ideas for my third book and I have most of the tent poles established (well, except for the “what happens between the beginning and the end” part) but I don’t have a name for my main character yet. I’ve been trying to remember how I named Cora and my main character in my second book and I’m pretty sure they just sprang into my head like reverse-Athenas.

So now I’ll wait for inspiration to strike, and in the meantime I’ll consult my little book o’ names and see if she makes herself known that way.