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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Stacey Joy Netzel

THE NAME GAME

Happy Tuesday everyone! The other day I was at the dentist with the kids, reading a magazine while my little kidlets were in the back getting their chompers scrubbed, and I happened to overhear a conversation at the receptionist’s desk. A man was telling the ladies all about his newborn baby girl, Genivive (JEN-ah-VEEV). Then he said, “So now we have Adriana, Isadora, and Genivive.”

Okay, that caught my attention. I looked up to see a guy dressed in a shirt, tie and sweater vest, looking to be about in his early to mid-thirties. Is it me, or do those seem like really fancy names? Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful, but they were different enough, especially hearing the three of them together, to grab my attention.

So I looked them up. According to www.MyBabyName.com, Genivive (with many spelling varieties) is the 25018th most popular baby name at the site, placing it in the top 35% of names by popularity. Isadora, is the 19748th most popular, placing it in the top 28%. Adriana, is the 61896th most popular, placing it in the top 86%. Yet, in 2006, Adriana was listed 287th (top 2%), in 2007 it was listed 99th (top 1%), and in 2008, it was listed 470th (also top 1%). I think Vince Gill even has a song called, “My Pretty Little Adriana.”

Side tangent: Names seem to ebb and flow like the popularity of certain romance genres.

Maybe it was the combination of the three together that really made them stand out to me. I’ve got a Cody, Morgan (F) and Ayden—all names I’d liked from when I was pregnant with Cody (now 16). If Cody had been a girl, Morgan was the one and only choice. She came along 8 yrs later. My main preference was names that couldn’t be shortened to nicknames. When Ayden was born, it would’ve been Amber for a girl, and Joel or Aiden for a boy, with me leaning toward Joel. However, after my first look, he didn’t look like a Joel, and I asked my husband, “So, Aiden?” He said, “I guess, it really doesn’t matter.” Nice, huh? It’s his name! Of course it matters. The nurse suggested the spelling with the Y and we both liked it.

But you know what I found out later? Each name we picked ended up being in the top ten baby names for either the year before, the year of, or the year after of our children’s birthdates. Real original, hey? LOL

Choosing character names in my books can sometimes be super easy, and sometimes it takes days of me looking at books and online lists before a name clicks when I say it out loud with a last name, and with the other main character’s name. Sometimes I look for an uncommon name, other times I’m okay with Rick, or Jenny. There’s not much rhyme or reason, it just has to sound good to me. Same as the names we picked for my kids had to sound good with our last name.

So, how do you choose your names; for a character or your kidlets? (be they two or four legged) When reading, do you mind a really different name, or does it distract you from the story? And how do you feel about shortened names/nicknames?

I came across a female’s name that in my mind was a man’s name (Fallon). I’d never heard it before, and I just couldn’t get past it, so I never finished the book. Another issue is, if I can’t pronounce a name, and have to stop and think about it each time I see it, that distracts me and takes away from my enjoyment of the story.

Give me your take on this subject to be entered into the regular and bonus give-a-ways at the end of the week.

Thanks for reading!!

Stacey Joy Netzel



www.StaceyJoyNetzel.com

24 comments:

Mom said...

Love the thinking-about-names business. For kids' names I went for names that were classic and relatively easy to spell (direct result of being named Beppie, I guess!) Martha, Mali, Marianna, James. The Mali is sort of exotic -- we adopted her from Thailand -- but it's pronounced like Molly, and so she doesn't have problems unless the spelling is critical. For character names I've used of all things the commencement book from Michigan State University that I got when James graduated the first time. It has any ordinary or ethnic name you can imagine!

mommustwrite said...

I like more common names in the books I read and the ones I write. I also feel pulled out of the story if I have to stop to think about how the name should be pronounced each time I read it. Great post, Stacey!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Good morning everyone! Wow, I've got Mom's showing up out of the wood work and they're not my Mom at all.

Beppie (Mom), I like Mali spelled like that, but not spelled like Molly. Go figure. :) I love my baby names book and for last names I'll pull out the phone book.

Jamie (mommustwrite), thanks for coming by. I remember your dislike of names difficult to pronounce and I think of it every time I name a new character. And, I like the names you use. A few are just different enough to be not totally common. :)

Carol Ericson said...

Stacey, I agree that unusual names bug me in books. If I don't know how to pronounce them, I go through the book with my own pronunciation of the name, but it's distracting. Since my husband's last name is German, we went for some German-sounding names for our boys. Our oldest is Kurt - not so unusual 40 years ago but unusual today - we don't know one other Kurt his age (13). Our younger son is Lukas (with a K, which is the German spelling). Much more common than Kurt today. We never call him "Luke" but a few others do. My name was so common when I was growing up, but I don't know any Carols in my sons' grades but some Carolyns and Carolines. Naming my characters is a whole other post!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Hey, Carol--I like Kurt, and I love Lukas, spelled just like that. And you've got some great character names in your Harlequin Intrigues. :)

Jordanne Ford said...

Hey Stacey! Great topic. I picked the barnname for my mare, Lee after a kid at the barn who was cute, but her registered name actually came from a Harlequin Romance. Her mother's name was PFF Fancy Filly (gag) and her sire's name was Narhan. Not much you could do with that, but this book I was reading sometime while Fancy was in foal had a line that went along like 'is it fact, or entirely fancy'. Aha! So, Lee's registered name became BNA Entyrely Fancy.
My characters rather name themselves. I'm not keen on too common names but I do try and stick with names that aren't too out there. Noah, Lacey, Conor, Julie.

Most of my four-legged critters came with their names. Right now I'm working on my 'yet to be bred' Paint/Arab foal's name. Dam is Ima Ritz Dancer and the sire will be Xceptshahn (pronounced exception) So far I've come up with Xceptional Colour, providing it's a coloured foal.

My daughter was named after Garth Brooks' eldest daughter, Taylor, who was named after James Taylor. She would have been Brayden if she'd been a boy.

Fun topic!
J

Donna Marie Rogers said...

Great topic, Stacey! I tend to prefer common names, or what I think of as common (Mike, Sara, Garrett, Jessica, etc.). I have the same trouble as most people with an odd name. Tripping over it and tryng to pronounce it every time it comes up in the book.

And then there are the names that can be used for both a male and a female, like your own Morgan (I prefer it as a girl's name :-). I went to school with boys named Courtney, Stacy & Tracy. *g* I tend to prefer a heroine with a masculine name over a hero with a feminine name, though.

Again, great subject!

Sweetsnan said...

Hi, Stacey,

Interesting post. I like names that are common but not trendy, and I do have trouble with really oddly spelled names in books. I'm reading one right now where the heroine is named Islay, and I trip over it every time I read it! For names in my stories, they just have to sound 'real' to me.

Nancy Sweetland

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Jordanne, I love that picture of Lee you have for your profile. (Did you see the pictures of my 'guys' on the Monday post?) I like Xceptional Colour, when are you looking to get her bred? I like Brayden, too. :)

Thanks to you and all the GIAMer's who've stopped by!

Donna, I totally agree, a masculine name for a heroine works for me (in most cases *grin*), but a feminine name for a hero rarely gets me past the first couple pages. Your Garrett in Meant to Be isn't common to me at all, but I really like the name and the character.

Hey, Nancy--thanks for coming by. Common but not trendy is a good rule of thumb. I like the names in your upcoming release, The Door to Love; Courtney and Link.

Chiron said...

Oh, Character Names drive me bonkers. I can spend days, searching the internet, flipping through phone books. Yikes!

I've tried to read some fantasy books where the character names were so hard to wrap my mind around AND often too similar to distinguish one from another. Finally, I just gave up! Names are important!

Great post. Timely too, since just last night I wondered if I should change the name of one of the characters in my WIP. *laughs*

--Chiron
The Write Soul: www.chironokeefeblogspot.com

Laurel Bradley said...

I'm not a huge fan of nicknames. I know some parents name a kid one thing and call them something else, but that's not for me. The first time someone called my oldest son Ben instead of Benjamin, I honestly had no idea who they were talking about. I didn't know anyone name Ben. I still don't. Benjamin has always been and will always be Benjamin to me. Interestingly enough, while he will allow others to call him Ben, his family MUST call him Benjamin. Go figure.

BTW, I've read every book Stacey has written and enjoyed them all. Keep up the good work, Stacey.

Deb Maher said...

Great post, Stacey! And I agree with "easy to pronounce." I've never forgotten the tough time I had with those Russian novels we had to read in English Lit. :)

I lean toward traditional. Genealogy, the Bible, and history texts are useful sources. Also, Social Security has a great site. It shows the most most popular male & female names each year since the late 1880's. Go to -

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

and scroll down. It's fun. I don't like to spend a lot of time choosing but getting the right name is important.

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Stacey

Interesting post. I don't have children - my 'babies' are all of the four legged variety, and my only criteria when nameing them is that I dislike giving an animal a 'human' name (so I ended up with a horse called Harry and another called Sally - both named by someone else!

I have a different problem to a lot of authors when naming my characters - since I write fantasy and futuristic. I try to pick names that sound reasonably familiarbut with something a little different about them, like the spelling, for my human characters - but for alien species - anything goes!

Mary Ricksen said...

Some of those unusual names are so nice. I don't mind unless they're not realistically possible.
I names my heroine after a relative and it's unusual. I think it just has to work right in the story.

With a name like mine. I've always dreamed of another name. Ha!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Hi Chiron, I understand what you mean about some of those fantasy names, but sometimes I really love seeing what the authors come up with. Good luck with your "To change or not to change" decision on the name. I've only ever been able to change the name of a secondary character once I've started writing. Never a main character.

Laurel--right back at ya on the books, I've enjoyed all yours, too, especially Creme Brule Upset. And I really like your name, even used a version of it in Dragonfly Dreams with Loral. :) Thanks for coming by!

Deb, thanks for that link. You've given it before on the WisRWA loop so I know I'll need to check it out. I like making my own lists of names to turn to when I'm starting a new book. The trouble is locating them when I want them. :)

Hywela, I agree about the human names for animals--though sometimes they are pretty darn cute. I think animals have a way of growing into their names. Or we just become so used to them we can't imagine anything else (which is what happens in my mind with a character.) I bet you have fun with those alien names. *grin*

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Mary, I also longed for a different name for many years. Stacey was so boring, and on top of it I had red hair. Yech. About mid-twenties I had enough comments on my hair that I began to like it and adding my middle name for writing helps, too. :) Mary M. Ricksen looks very nice on your book cover! Thanks for coming by. :)

Mona Risk said...

What a fun post. I never thought long about naming my kids or my hero/heroine. With my first child I was sure it was a girl and talked about her as Mitzy. When HE was born we had thirty minutes to decide and chose the saint of the day: Paul. When I became pregnant again, I was sure it was a boy and decided to call him George, after my father. Murphy's Law, SHE came to be a cute little girl. My husband called her Arlene.

My heroes are all foreigners, so I used two very French names Olivier and François, easy to pronounce, or two Russian names, Sergei and Fyodor. For François, I chose a Cheryl because he can call her, Chérie (darling in French). For Sergei, I chose Cecile (he calls her Cecilya, the Russian way). In other books, I have a Holly, Meredith, Olivia, Alexa,...

At my doctor’s office, every one knows I write medical romances. The nurses asked me to use their names for the nurses in my next book. So it's coming with a Jocelyna and a Gabriella.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Mona, even though I don't like nicknames in real life, I do like the hero/heroine having a nickname only they use for the heroine/hero. I like the names you've mentioned and too funny about the nurses at the doctor's office. I'd totally do that if someone asked me. :)

Vanessa Kelly said...

Character names are critically important, I think. They can either pull you in and bring the character to life for the reader, or you can spend the rest of the book saying, "Yuck! That name totally doesn't fit!" A bad name can really pull you out of the story.

Stacey, I also take a long time thinking up my names. It can be a bit of a challenge for historicals, especially when it comes to naming all those lords and ladies!

Sandy said...

I used to angst over names when I first started writing, but now I just choose a name I think goes with the character. For instance, in The Catalyst, I chose Kyria for a secondary character because I knew a black girl with that name, and I thought it was pretty.

Stacey, you have me worried over that name. Smile.

A thought provoking post, Stacey.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Vanessa, I can see where historical would be extra hard with a huge cast of secondary characters. I'm experiencing that right now with the villans in my Italy set novel (contemporary) and trying to find a wide range of names that aren't the same-ol, same-ol.

Sandy, sorry to make you worry--but Kyria is pretty simple, so I'd think it's fine. I'd pronounce it Keer-a. But, given the number of people who have mentioned a hard name can pull them out of a story, you can bet I'll be considering them all even more carefully. :)

Thanks to both of you for stopping by and don't forget to go check out Wednesday's post for a chuckle. Might even make you appreciate the man in your life more. LOL

braffin10 said...

Hi Stacey! Like you, I don't like names that with such complicated spellings, I can't easily read them. But I'm pretty forgiving. If I like what I'm reading, I'll somehow convert the name for reading sake. Sometimes those weird names are just the right name from the writer's POV. Also, like you, I pour throuh the Baby name books or some on-line name site for the name that "sounds" just right for my character. I don't mind nicknames. In fact, I often use them as a way for the hero or heroine to distinguish themselves from othes...like they're the only one who calls him/her that name. Some people don't like boyish names for girls, but I do. I love the Sam and Bobbi type names. Does anyone else think Kelby sounds masculine? My editor did and I had to give the heroine in my next book a middle name to satisfy her so I could keep the name.

BTW, Stacey, Chasin' Mason is at the top of my TBR pile now that I've met all my deadlines. Yipeee!

Barbara Raffin www.BarbaraRaffin.com

braffin10 said...

I just remembered your comment about naming our 2 or 4 legged childen. I named my dog Copy, as in copyright, which the breeders liked because they wanted the puppies from this litter to all be named after newspaper terms.

Barbara Raffin

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Hey Barb! I've always loved your dog's name, Copy. *grin* How perfect! I don't like nicknames in real life, but I like them in books a lot. You'll see that in Chasin' Mason. I hope you enjoy the book--and that it proves a good enough reward for meeting all those deadlines! :) Thanks for commenting.