Monday, November 9, 2009

My assignment was to memorize the names of the stars."

"Which stars?"

"All of them."

"You mean all the stars, in all the galaxies?"

"Yes. If he calls for one of them, someone has to know which one he means. Anyhow, they like it; there aren't many who know them all by name, and if your name isn't known, then it's a very lonely feeling."

-A conversation between Meg and Proginoskes in A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle

I wonder if my characters feel lonely until I've named them? How patient the characters must be whose names I keep changing! Sometimes I forget how much they depend on me, for everything.

Proginoskes and Meg are both Namers. Here's something else Proginoskes says: "When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That's basically a Namer's job."

Here's a FAQ about Fire. (In case you're completely spoiler-phobic: since I'm talking about the reasons for characters' names, I do refer to the general natures of some of my characters. Proceed at your own peril!)

How did you come up with the names in Fire?
Hm. Well, ever since rereading Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, I've wanted to name a tall, handsome man Archer. I think Archer may have grown from his name, actually; his name (which is a nickname) is how I realized he was so good at archery. My sister, secret codename: Cordelia, has always despised the name Nash for various reasons, but I've always kind of liked it, so I decided to reclaim it and prove to her that it was worthwhile. Nax seemed like the perfect variation for Nash's no good father. Cansrel... a dear aunt was dying of cancer around the time I started writing Fire. The similarity between the two words is not a coincidence.

Musa was a dancer on So You Think You Can Dance whose name I liked. Mila was my dear friends' dog. Larch converted well to the thing I needed it to convert to ;). Brocker, Roen, Tess, Gentian, Neel -- they just felt right. Mydogg and Murgda... well, don't they just sound unpleasant? The horses... again, the names just felt right.

Clara, Garan, Hanna, and Brigan. I loved the way these names sounded when extended to their full royal titles: Claradell, Garandell, Hannadell, Brigandell. I particularly liked the way Claradell sounded like Clarabelle, but wasn't, and the way Hannadell sounded like Annabel, but wasn't. And Brigan's name was always Brigan (just like Archer's was always Archer's), because it sounds like brigand, and that's how I thought of him in his early appearances in the book.

I don't remember thinking up Fire's name. I think I must have always known it.

Here's a question for YOU: Do you like your own name? What would you name yourself if you could choose?

(To hear me and other authors talking about our own names, go here. ^_^)

(Oh! And to see me, Suzanne Collins, Justine Larbalestier, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and Michael Grant, go to Books of Wonder tomorrow, November 10, from 6-8pm, at 18 West 18th Street in Manhattan!)

38 comments:

Jen said...

I love my name: Jennah (Jen-nah). It means heaven in Arabic. I would probably rename myself Arya or Rosabelle. I'm quite a fan of it. Also, if I were a man I would rename myself Ronan or Evander. I also love the name Fang and Skye. The name Ayah is gorgeous too and Omar if pronounced in the Arabic Tongue. Katsa is a very gorgeous name, too. Hermione is a name I love, too. Oh and does the US have the UK Fire cover?

rockinlibrarian said...

It is that book, and pretty much everything L'Engle (who is my writing-related hero, I even named my daughter* after her) kept saying about the subject in her nonfiction and off and on in her other fiction too, that makes me feel AWFUL because I am really bad about naming things! I am the kind of person who calls all dogs "Dog" and even my own children "Boy" and "Girl." As someone who believes in the power of words on an almost spiritual level, I don't know why names are so difficult for me! But then, maybe that's WHY they're difficult-- maybe I'm afraid of their power!

I have never been much attached to my name. My first name is Amy and I was born in the 1970s, so the only way it could have been LESS unique is if I'd been a Jennifer. But I do like the meaning of it, "beloved"; I like the fact that it's the Latin root for countless words having to do with love and friendship across so many languages. I kind of clung to that at times in my unpopular youth: "I know I'm not totally rejected-- my name SAYS so!"

When I married and took my husband's last name, my single friends asked me if that was confusing, and I said, actually, not at all. My maiden name is one of those complicated Eastern European names that no one can pronounce or spell, whereas my husband's is simple, one syllable, four letters (although it amazes me how often people still get THIS one wrong!). It's PRACTICAL. But not only do I still consider myself a [insert maiden name here], I even consider myself a [mother's maiden name] and even a [paternal grandmother's maiden name]. So I think you've got your practical everyday names, but your True Names are a lot longer than you would ever write anywhere!

So I think if somebody wanted to work magic using my True Name, they wouldn't get very far using Amy. But maybe that name is just a shadow of the True one.

*PS: this daughter is 6 months old and so her eyes haven't settled into their color yet, and yesterday one was distinctly more blue than the other all morning. I asked her if she was a Graceling, and she just laughed at me. She may have a Grace for being REALLY LOUD, but that's all I've noticed so far...

carterbham said...

When I was little, I used to hate my name. Too many jokes and inconvenient rhymes (Jimmy Carter, Welcome Back Kotter, and others I don't have the strength to post online). But as I got older and realized how nice it was to have a unique name, I came to be quite fond of it.

A. Grey said...

I've always been sort of apathetic about my name. It sounds horrible to say it but it's true. I think it might have something to do with being a twin and having my own identity so intertwined with my sister's. But I thinks it's something more as well, that I can't articulate.

I'm horrible with names. I remember people by who they are more than what they're called. For example: That beautiful red headed girl who offered her seat to the old man behind her.

Some people think that's wretched, they seem to think it somehow dehumanizes someone to recall them by something other than a name. But what's in a name?

If I could rename myself, I'd probably choose something like 'Wild-haired Girl Who Writes Her Dreams Down' :)

gilana said...

My full name is Gilana, but since birth I've always been called Gilly. (That's a hard G, like the gills on a fish.) As a kid I hated never being able to find anything personalized, but now I love having an uncommon name, and I like having the option of using either version; I tend to use Gilana a lot online, where it doesn't matter that no one pronounces it correctly. :)

k-10b said...

I am named for a character from an excellent book, Kristin Lavransdatter, which my mom had read and loved in college. Since I'm a devoted bibliophile, I've always found this wonderfully appropriate.

My daughter's named Margaret, with a nickname of Meg ... very much because of Meg Murray from L'Engle's books. (and for her great-grandmother).

Kristen

ICQB said...

My maiden name was Rose. I never thought much about it, but a few months ago in my book club group, we shared our maiden names. When it was my turn and I said, "Rose," everyone went, oooh!

That was the first time I realized it was kind of pretty, but I don't have it anymore.

Jennifer said...

My name's Jennifer and I aboslutely hate it. My name is just so plain and common and there are about a million different nicknames people call me. Such as Jenny, Jen, Jen-Jen, Jenny-Lou, and about a million other names.

I would love to have an original and unique name, that describes me as a person.

I actually just got through looking at names and the name Xexilia means blind of self beauty. I think it's a beautiful name that is obviously very orginal and that it fits me; even though I don't look like an Xexilia, ^_^.

Curiosity&Change said...

Oooo, that was the first Madeline L'Engle book I ever read- it sparked conversations with the most amazing grade school teacher I had, which fueled the growing fire of my reading obsession. It was a beautiful book.

I love how authors present me with names all the time- names that cannot be pronounced, cannot be spelled, names you cannot find anywhere else. It makes my reading so much more unique.

My name is Lindsie- it was inspired by a soap character or the actress playing the character :) My mom has no connection to soaps now, so I find the fact that me and my older sister were named for pop culture.

I used to be annoyed when I couldn't find my name on things (like keychains and other souvenier vanity junk that I abhor these days :) but now I love when people ask "Lindsie with and -ay or -ey" and I say "IE" and throw them for a loop.

The one downside is that substitute teachers take a look at the rosters and think my name is Leslie 9 times out of 10 (though the worst of that was during high school...) I'm sure I'll encounter that more, but I truly love the unique spelling of my semi-unique name...

Debby said...

When I was a kid, my friend's mother was named Debra, as were many other kids' mothers, so I always associated my name with mothers and I didn't like it. However, in school, I have always been the only Debra or Debby (my nickname) and since it seemed every girl in my class was named Sara or Rachel, I was unique.

However, I have always loved my last name (Dear) and I have always intended on keeping my last name, even if I get married. Plus, my name has some pleasant alliteration (Debby Dear) which seems fitting for an English major.

RobinPS said...

I used to hate my name - I always wanted to be called April because I was born in April. It wasn't until I was well into adulthood, and my grandfather was dying, that I found out I had no name for a handful of days after my birth. It was my grandfather who saw a robin bird outside while he was holding me, and who suggested the name. Now I feel comfortable with my name, and it makes me happy to know I was named by my Papa, one of my favorite people.

tinkandalissa said...

For a long time me and my name didnt get along. I hated it. Despised it even. The older I get the more indifferent I become. I mean, it is just a name.
The biggest issue I've always had and always will have it pronunciation. Because my mom thought she was being creative by combining Melissa and Allison to make Alissa, that "i" instead of a "y", as per usual, totally throws everyone off. I dont understand how a person can read the name Melissa, which has an "i", and say it properly, but give them my name and they say Alicia, Alisha, Alice, etc. Seriously, people? Also, when I say my name to people they will then repeat it incorrectly. It's apparently an amazingly difficult name for most folks to articulate. I've gotten used to answering to Phyllis, Elizabeth, Allison, Melissa, so on and so forth. To make matters worse, I'm really not a fan of my middle name. I don't like to share that at all. But I will...Denee. Just like Renee but with a "d". Ugh. Then the cherry on top is when I got married and have an equally hard last name. Totally throws everything off. So, when I go to the doctor, or anywhere, I just spell my name for them. I know they are going to need me to anyway. It's just too hard. :)
Wow, this makes me sound bitter about the whole name thing. Ha!
It could've been worse...my mom was going to name me Amber Autumn. No offense to anyone out there, but that totally sounds like a stripper name to me! Haha!
When it comes to naming character's, however, it becomes serious business! It has to feel right. The great part of names is that you can always change them for characters in a book. Not so easy to do with a child :) I think I changed my main guy's name about 5 times before I got one that finally felt right.
I love this post, btw. I wondered about Cansrel. And I wondered correctly!

Bittersweet said...

First name - I always hated it. It's a well known name that's not used that often. I'm a child of the 80s where there was a very popular singer by same name. People would make "jokes" (" " because they never made me laugh) all the time and it got tiring. I just recently had started to like it and then I found out my mom got the name from a mistress on a tv show. Thanks Mom.

Michelle said...

wow, just wow. I loved hearing all your names (and the reason for them). personally, I also loved Brigan and I'm glad to hear that you like it because it is also close to brigand - I kept thinking that the entire time while reading the book.

and I do like my name - even if it is fairly common...

Elyse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elyse said...

I would love to see you, Suzanne Collins, (just started reading Hunger Games!) and Libba Bray tomorrow! Unfortunately, not going to be able to make it to NY. lol. But I will be seeing you on Nov 24 in Boston! :) Can't wait!

I like my name. I've met very few Elyse's. Upside it's unique, downside it's unique. lol. No one pronounces it right! If they see it in writing, they say 'Elsie'. Most everyone calls me 'Eleece' but it's actually pronounced 'Eleez'.

I've always wanted to be Genevieve. Such a beautiful French name! I have a huge list of names for my babies. :D They're all going to have to have 2 or 3 middle names because I'm not going to have 30 boys and 30 girls! lol. I was supposed to be Daniel because my parents had 4 boys before me so they just figured I'd be a boy. So when I was born they decided to name me Elyse, after my mom's great-grandmother, and Yvonne, after my mom's grandmother.

Zuckerguss said...

Meh. I always found my name to be pretty boring. Jessica. It's just so... common. It could be worse though.
I've always loved the name Fiona. It just sounds so colorful to me. If I'd be to change my change, I'd probably change it into Fiona. :)

Meredith said...

I did not like my name growing up because I had no nickname. There were all sorts of Jenn's and Missy's in my classes and I wanted a nickname too. Turns out, my mother chose the name Meredith because she didn't like nicknames! I also grew up in a town called Meriden, so it was sort of annoying that when people said the town name at first I thought they might be saying mine. :) And it wasn't easy to find barettes that said Meredith on them :)

Now, I love my name. I like that it's different and sort of special although it has become a little bit more mainstream lately. :)

Constance L said...

I love my name partly because it was my grandmother's, but also because I think it sounds elegant. And I'm so goofy, I really need whatever elegance I can get! There's a Constance in The Mysterious Benedict Society. And she's a very fun character.

Mel said...

Too bad I have school tomorrow.
My name is Melanie, and I guess it's okay. When I was younger I wished my name was Amy because 1. My mom told me that if my brother had been a girl, he (she?) would have been Amy, and 2. My last name is 12 letters long and I just wanted something shorter and faster to write! Also, I found out that it means something like "dark-skinned" (based on melanin, the chemical in your skin that causes freckles), which didn't sound very romantic to me. Now, I'm not so upset about my name. My mom chose it because it sounded pretty to her.
My last name is Greek, and with a different spelling means "steadfast." It's actually a common last name (in Greece and Italy), but because it has a different spelling, people assume that it's not pronounced the same way.
Right now I LOVE the names Ava (bird in Latin) and Arabelle (a mix of Ara- [Lion] and...well, -belle. Beautiful). I've contented myself to deciding to name my daughters that in the far-off future. And one of my characters in my own story is named Ava. (They are Ava, Stella, and Celeste. See the similarity? :] )

Memory said...

I never liked the name my parents gave me, so I started searching for a new one when I was eight years old. I played around with all sorts of different names, (including Cordelia!), but nothing really fit. I was eighteen before I thought to consider abstract concepts instead of traditional names. I lit on Memory almost immediately, and it's been my name ever since. I figure, if you can name someone Charity or Hope, you can name someone Memory.

kristin cashore said...

Comment deleted for EXTREME spoilers.

mysteryflavour said...

My name - Courtney - is common enough that it's never spelled wrong, and I can always find keychains and mugs personalized for me, but I don't know too many people with the same name. Still, as a kid I always HATED that I couldn't have a nickname. Court didn't sound right. Before I was born my parents were thinking that maybe they could call me Cody, but then decided it was the same number of syllables so why bother? I always wished they had anyway. I tried to initiate many terrible nicknames that never stuck (though my sister still calls me 25 sometimes - as in, quarter, as in, courter... yeah I know it's a stretch) in my youth, before giving up and sticking with the original. If I tried to do Cody now I'd just feel awkward correcting people all the time.

I neither hate nor love Courtney. And here's something interesting: every other letter spells CUTE.

My middle name is Page, for my mother (and also because there's some family silver with 'Page' engraved that I now get to inherit) which I like very much because it's short and not the typical spelling, but still a word that people hear and see every day.

AndrewsMommom said...

My name is Angela. I've always been called Angie. There's no real story behind it - my mom liked it. My mom's sister, who lived thousands of miles away, was pregnant at the same time. She wanted to name her daughter Angie too - but I was born first. (So there Laura! LOL)
I never really loved my name or hated it. There were always Angies or Angelas or even Angels when I was growing up.
I will say I think my parents chose my middle name, Lynn, so that when I was in trouble, my name became one whole word:
ANGELALYNN Kinda rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? LOL
What I'm proudest of is keeping my maiden name and adding my husband's. I would have preferred just my maiden name - I'd had it for 35 years! - but he was so...wounded? by me not wanting to add his. So, instead of losing a name, I gained an extra.
If I'd had a daughter, I would've named her Lydia Claire - I have always LOVED that name. And, like most who posted here, I got it from a book! :-)

itdependsontheday said...

i dont like my name. its so common. (its madison) at school, there is another madison (whos really nice) but we cant distinguish ourselves by using mady (or any other way to spell it) because a girl named madeline refuses to be called anything other than mady. so i think next year im going to call myself something else. like rae. or phaea. or some other name ive come up with that i like.
plus the meaning sucks. "the son of maud" do YOU wan to be called that? as a girl?

Bina said...

My first name is Bina (pronounced with a long i). I hated it growing up but now I like having a unique name.

kristin cashore said...

Thanks for sharing your names and your feelings about them, everyone! It's so interesting to read. I like the idea that our True Names are longer than we could ever write.

Gotta go catch a train -- happy Tuesday, all!

Linda said...

Thank you thank you! I had been wondering and wondering, actually, about the pronunciation of Brigan.

Part of my job is doing transcriptions of audio files (eh, long story) but I just couldn't get out of my head the question of whether it was /B R IH G AH N/ or
/B R AY G AH N/.
I'm pretty sure, from what you said, it's the first one.

And now you know *just* how nerdy I am. ; )

Fire was fantastic. Truly deserving of the accolades it's getting!!

p.s. Word verification might be good for any future names you might need. "Bactro" would make a great super-villan.

Jen said...

Mel, Is your last name Hektor? It means Steadfast in Greek and Italian.

Mel said...

@Jen
Remember how I said it was 12 letters?
The root is from the emperor Contantine, and there are a lot of variations.

CLM said...

I am also a Constance L (how funny there are two such fans here!) and like my name, although I notice in fiction it is usually the villain (even in the Mysterious Benedict Society she was a pain for most of the first book).

I went to the Harvard Bookstore over the weekend and there was only one copy of Fire left! But it was already signed and I want mine signed in person, so hopefully I can escape from work on the 24th for the signing.

Terresa said...

L'Engle is a rock star. I bow to her. She is everything in a writer that I'd like to become.

to answer your question, yes, I like my name OK. It's a little not so common, but enough common that people can pronounce it, although they're always mispelling it!

Nasir said...

i've ALWAYS hated my name. I would change it to Rivkin Cloud in a heartbeat if I had the courage lol.

faye said...

I've had a love/hate relationship with my name. One thing I dislike about Chinese names is that they're so short, and the spondee doesn't really flow together well. In third grade my parents anglicised my name from "Fei" to "Faye" believing "Fei" looked too masculine and difficult to pronounce.

I didn't start to like "Faye" until about high school. Nobody else had my name, and I thought it sounded old-ladyish and middle-nameish. Then I figured out the faerie connection and enjoyed how unique it was (also, it doesn't lend itself to dopey nicknames). By the time I got to college people began to actively compliment me on my name.

I still don't like how my first and last name go together, as it rhymes with "baby", plus it's impossible to format as the headliner of a resume. Gah!

(It was great seeing you again yesterday Kristin! Thanks for signing Graceling)

Asia Davidson said...

My name is Asia, and I love it. I cannot imagine being named anything different, because it's me, all wrapped up into four little letters.

Rebekah said...

I don't hate my name so much as having it. I'm a "Rebekah," so I get the double-curse of having a name that sounds common (I've met dozens upon dozens of Rebeccas), but isn't spelled commonly, so I'm forever having to explain to people that it's kah, not cca.

If I could, I would probably change my name to something short, but rare, like Ina (as in Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa*). Maybe something French or Finnish, as I love both languages (and countries). Tarja wouldn't be bad.

Of course, I could always go with what my father keeps suggesting and just be "second" (as I have one older sybling) in Latin: secundus.

*Whose show is a daily staple in our household.

Lora said...

Just found your blog and it's fun! Thanks for taking time to write it.

I was named after my great grandmother, so I liked my name although I remember spelling it to correct people by the time I was three "L-O-R-A"

I didn't like my last name bc it was my father's and was not a positive force in my life, to understate it. When I was getting married last spring it occurred to me for the first time that I was not relinquishing a tie to my father, for whom I harbor no affection, but my own name. So I kept it, and added my husband's too.

murgatroid said...

My mum named me Kalinda while she was still a little drugged up (and ridiculously tired from two days of labour), pretty much by accident. She'd been planning to call me Sheridan, and either forgot, or my dad took advantage of her dopey state and convinced her to go with his favourite :D

I used to hate my name, because it was so different, and I have an aunt called Belinda and the whole rhyming thing pissed me off. My name has definitley grown on me now, especially since I heard how close I was to being a Sheridan (nickname - Sherry. Ew.).

Around the same time my parents told me the Sheridan story, however, the also told me that they had considered calling me Storm, which would have been kinda awesome...