While William Shakespeare and Juliet Capulet may disagree with me, I think many challenges hinge on one’s name. We cannot ignore the history, and connotations, which arise from given names. Nor are they easily thrown off as Juliet begs of Romeo.
Choosing names for the characters in a novel can draw readers into a story when they associate with characters which makes them relatable. Yes, I totally see that character as a so-and-so. Or, a name which doesn’t personify a character well can drag down readers and makes them skeptical for the rest of the story.
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In my novel, many of the characters’ names are based on actual people. Eliza is close enough to Elizabeth, my grandmother’s name. Eliza is also a popular name for women around the turn of the century (see the main characters in Eliza Waite and Lost Roses). Nicknames for Eliza can also enliven her character. Her friends may be less formal and call her Lizzy. Or, she can be Lizzy or Liz during her younger years and mature into Eliza. Her brothers may call their younger sister, Dizzy Lizzy. Both instances help to build Eliza as a character and how the other characters relate to her.
I have plucked other character names from the class lists of Woman’s Medical at the turn of the century when names like Edith and Charlotte would be popular. Eliza’s mother and her aunts are all based on my grandmother’s family: Laura, Florence, Estelle, Maria, and Josephine. I had to cut down on the number of characters, so Adeline’s and Linda’s name had to remain on the pages of the Philadelphia census books and the family gravestone. But, an Irish maid listed in the census makes an appearance, Molly O’Brien.
As important as the characters’ names, the name of the book, is equally difficult to choose. For the past eighteen months, I’ve call my novel Title TBD or Eliza’s Story. I need a title which will immediately capture a potential reader’s attention. The words need to convey the storyline and setting. The cover design will assist, but if someone sees only the title in print, or hears it said (you know, when I get asked to do radio interviews or podcasts, LOL), there needs to be a connection, a sense of intrigue to pique interest.
During a chapter re-write this week and while returning to one of my core reference books for research, I think I’ve found my title. I’m excited to begin to bring its meaning into the story as a reinforcing theme throughout the pages.
I’m not ready to reveal it yet, but I did try it out on a friend last night and she LOVED it. And, yes, I’ve Googled it – there isn’t any other book out there right now with the same title. Fingers crossed there isn’t by the time I get to publication!
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