One Writer’s Journey

August 1, 2017

Naming Your Characters

Several months ago, I started working on a picture book set in the Himalayas.  I’m currently on my third major rewrite and my main character has already had two names.  I think the one she has now will stick.

I just checked the post-it notes where I wrote my first draft.  Yep, post it notes.  In that draft, my main character was named Gigi.

Why Gigi?  I’m sure that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  After all, it sounds perky and energetic.  My son actually works with not one but two teen girls named Gigi.  Honestly, I can’t give a solid reason other than “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

By the time I got around to draft number 2, I had decided that as names go, that one wasn’t altogether suitable.  What would a girl be named who is hiking mountain paths in the Himalayas?  I noodled it over for a while and I may well have been plodding along on the treadmill when the answer came to me — Hillary!

The name initially struck a note with me because of Sir Edmund Hilary, the New Zealand mountaineer who scaled Everest. He is well-known because of a Himalayan mountain.  My character is in the Himalayas walking mountainous paths if not actually mountain climbing.  This could work!

Then it hit me that this is a name that comes loaded with connotations.  If someone is pro-Hillary, this may lead them to pick up the book.  Maybe it will encourage them to think of this character as a leader, as someone who pushes the limits.

Of course, not everyone is a Hillary fan.  This means that some people will automatically think negative thoughts because of the name.  They may put the book down.  They may think that the character must be dishonest and put the book down.

But . . . but . . . Sir Edmund Hillary.

I’m going to keep working with her as Hillary.  Ultimately, her name may need to change.  But for now I’m writing a story about a girl named Hillary.

–SueBE

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