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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Photo courtesy of Photobucket


Do you think a particular character's name within a novel can make or break the story?

If the nice little old lady mentioned in Chapter 3 exhibits the exact same habit as your grandmother of tittering whenever she laughs, will you enjoy the tale more? Maybe the hero’s name matches that of a well-regarded high school sweetheart, or a less than stellar ex-husband. Will the memories conjured up by the mention of this name influence your opinion of the character one way or the other?

In my first draft of For Every Action, two of the supporting characters were:

1. Monica Allen, a friend of the protagonist, and

2. Bill Jacobs, the office manager.

After I’d read aloud a scene involving these two characters to a Creative Writing class I attended, the first comment uttered was, “I was waiting for Monica to call him Mr. President.”

I had completely missed any connection to past “affairs” within the White House! And though the story contained no mention of D.C. politics, the two names together, Monica and Bill, conjured up distracting thoughts for members of the writing class, thereby breaking rather than making the story.

My protagonist's name, on the other hand, has unique qualities. Please allow her to explain:

Almost everyone calls me Pepper. I investigate insurance claims for a company in Wisconsin and the job allows me to travel around the country, but at times it can be murder.

My full name is Kai-Ena Lehua Bibeau.

My father's surname, Bibeau, is derived from the French word, bibau, a soldier who carries a lance or a crossbow. You've probably guessed that I enjoy genealogy research. Digging into family history as a hobby makes me sound like a nerd, but discovering ancestors can be a thrilling experience!

Lehua, my middle name, is for the lehua blossom, a beautiful Hawaiian flower. It commonly develops in various shades of red, orange, or yellow. The lehua kea, white-in-color, is difficult to find and then only on the largest of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island. You'll learn how I got that name when reading the novel, For Every Action.

My given name, Kai-Ena, is Hawaiian, the language of my mother's people.

KAI is the Hawaiian word for Sea.

ENA means red-hot, glowing;
figuratively: raging or angry.

Kai-Ena translates to a
raging sea,
a storm,
a gale.

If my author had an ego, her alter would be me.

6 comments:

ninidee said...

It's funny how sometimes we cannot see what is visible to others when it comes to our own work.

I like the history you gave for the names. It makes the name interesting and unforgettable.

Maribeth

Gail Baugniet said...

Yes, Maribeth, it's sometimes the "forest for the trees" syndrome with my writing. That's why I'm always thankful for the eyes of fellow writers.

Ruth M McCarty said...

Powerful. Especially the raging sea. I really like her name.

E. B. Davis said...

Interesting, although her first name seems to contradict her middle name. One is fiery, the other a gentle blossom. Add the French last name, which goes with the first name and I'm getting the impression of a very extreme person. I wonder how the character likes it.

Allene said...

I feel strength, yet peace, in her name. She is a person I would like. A person who could take on the world and keep it even.

Gail Baugniet said...

Ruth, Elaine, & Allene, Thank you for your comments.
@Elaine, Interesting observation:
"I wonder how the character likes it."
I hope the novel reveals the answer, not so much how she likes the name but how its diversity fits her personality. Or, conversely, how her personality reflects the name.