Guest Post: What’s in a Name by Skyla Dawn Cameron
A few years ago I was standing in front of a class of teens in an English class, talking to them about my novel River and answering questions. One of the kids asked where I came up with character names from.
“Oh, it varies,” I said. “Sometimes I use the name of someone I don’t like—in River it was Lindsay.”
All eyes in the room turned to one of the girls, who was apparently named Lindsay, and I felt a bit badly for phrasing it that way. But honestly, it was the truth.
Having written nearly thirty books now, my naming strategy has changed somewhat, but with my earlier books that was often how I went about it. River in particular, being set in high school and written about three years after I graduated, I pulled names from life.
The copyright page of most books warn: “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.” But one of the benefits of writing fiction is to kill or immortalize the people we don’t like.
In the case of River, no one dies, but there are lots of horrible people. One of the primary antagonists, Brenden, was based in part on a kid in middle school—you probably remember the type, because there was always that one guy who seemed like he was three or four years older than everyone else, built strong, possibly growing facial hair years ahead of his peers, and who no one wanted to cross because he radiated violence. The guy like that I knew never bothered me, so while I used that as a basis, I still needed a proper name for him.
Then I remembered Brenden. This smug ass I had in one of my high school classes who I constantly wanted to punch. I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful Brendens out there, so my apologies, but I associate the name with that particular one. When I needed to name a character my protagonist was going to punch, it was my first choice. (It’s not just me, by the way—speak to any teacher who also writes, and I bet she can give you a laundry list of names she’d never give a main character because of particular kids she dealt with.)
By contrast, naming protagonists usually means picking a name I have absolutely no association with—the name needs to be a blank slate as to not influence the character. The titular character in River was nearly named Meadow because I wanted her name to fit with her backstory (in the novel, River was found as a newly changed human by a river) however sometime earlier Firefly had aired, which had a character named River, and I worried about an indirect influence. Thankfully River came to me fully formed and absolutely would not accept any other name; I couldn’t really picture her as a Meadow anyway.
And then the odd name are ones I’ve had so many encounters with it’s practically as blank River was for me. One of the novel’s other primary characters, Daryl, was one such name. I’ve known a lot of them—I’ve a cousin named Daryl, a brother Darryl, I grew up with a Daryl at my babysitter’s, crushed on a Daryl briefly in school—but it’s not so common a name that a lot of characters in novels have it, so it was a good fit for the book because I didn’t have a single strong association with it one way or the other.
Over the years I’ve found different ways to name characters—I have an entire file of different names I think have potential—and I ran out of enemies from high school to torture in fiction, but River is unique in that the origin of each character’s name is still quite firmly engrained in my head.
And, finally, to conclude the story I opened with…toward the end of the talk, one of the other kids asked where I’d be if not a writer. I immediately replied, “In jail.”
That could be why I don’t speak to groups of teenagers anymore.
Author: Skyla Dawn Cameron
Blurb: Defiant, nocturnal, moody–though River sounds like a typical teenager, she’s anything but. River’s a werewolf.
The life of an alpha female wolf was irrevocably changed the night she was attacked and bitten, and awoke confused, alone, and human. Three years later, thrust into a world where she doesn’t belong and living in foster care, River barely tolerates humanity and still doesn’t know who bit her or why.
But River isn’t as alone as she previously thought; someone’s been watching her, someone who holds the answers she’s been seeking. And though the human who changed her seems to be a step ahead of her at every turn, River is determined to beat his game and return to her pack and mate.
As if being stuck in a world she hates, with a life she never asked for, and faced with a destiny she doesn’t want wasn’t bad enough, River still must find a way to survive every human’s greatest challenge: high school.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-927966-02-0
Print ISBN: 978-1-927966-01-3
Release Date: August 25 (ebook), September 1 (print)
Buy Direct: http://www.skyladawncameron.com/product/river/
For a list of tour spots and to find out more about River—including the first seven chapters free—at http://skyladawncameron.com/river/
About the Author
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever.
Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy, which is great for her short attention span. She is also a proud Writer of Unlikable Female Characters™.
Skyla is a fifth generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she writes full time, works as a freelance designer, stabs people with double pointed knitting needles, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grownup, she wants to run her own Irish pub, as well as become world dictator.
Visit Skyla’s site at www.skyladawncameron.com
– DVD/Blu-Ray combo of Ginger Snaps
– River poster print
– River tote bag
– wolf charm bookmark
– River postcard
– wolf charm necklace
– Animal Speak pocket guide version by Ted Andrews
ONLY for US & Canada