What's in a name? I've asked myself that question numerous times, especially as I lament a character's name. To me, naming a character is vital. The name is the character. Some writers just pick a name they like and run with it--and I admire those writers who don't get caught up in the name game. I'm afraid I'm not one of them. Currently, I'm going over names for a hero for my HQN book. His title is the Earl of Black. He has no Christian name. I feel his name needs to start with a J....I have a name in mind, but I'm still savoring it, making sure it feels right!
Now, honestly, sometimes I find it very easy to pick a name. Others not so much. With Addicted, Lindsay was just born Lindsay. His name fits--passionate, emotional, poetic. The name fits the man (and yes, in those olden days, men had names like Shelley, and Lindsay and Ashley...) As well, Anais, (Lindsay's heroine) has a very lovely, passionate name. The names fit the couple and their love, which is soft and romantic and well....passionate. Sinful's characters however are another matter entirely. Wallingford is a gruff no nonsense man. I was 3/4 finished Addicted before I even knew what his name would be. Matthew kept popping into my head, and I resisted it for days. He didn't seem to be a Matthew to me. He was only just Wallingford. But then I began to really think on it. Matthew can be a strong name. It seems the sort of name that a duke might give his son. And Matty whispered by the heroine would be the most intimate of sounds, especially to a man who never hears his Christian name. So, Matthew Wallingford became.
Now, his heroine. I'm not sure how many of you know this, but I tossed out the first 200pgs of Sinful. It wasn't working. And it was the heroine who wasn't doing it for me. She was all wrong for my Wallingford. In short, she was a ball breaker. She never backed down. She was contempous, hard headed, and I really didn't like her, but I thought she was the sort that Wallingford needed. And her name...GAWD...Emma just didn't work.
I kept wanting to call her Jane. The trouble was, I had used that name for a heroine in a novella--Tutoring Lady Jane. I didn't want readers to think that I was struggling for names--or ideas. But the truth was, she was Jane to me, and worse, she was Jane to Matthew as well. I could hear him speaking her name, whether in longing or in anger or exasperation. I wanted a common name, a strong name that spoke of the kind of woman she was. In the end, I captiulated and decided that Jane she was, and I've never looked back.
Jane Austen once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that she would be in essence devastated if readers did not like her Elizabeth Bennett. Jane Austen found Lizzy 'quite a delightful character', and I agree with her. I also feel much the same about Jane Rankin.
I find heroines rather difficult to pen. The men are always the first to come to me, but the women...sigh...I usually struggle with them. I think it's me. I have a hard time relating to some heroines. My editor once told me that heroines are wall paper for us. And I agree. In the beginning when you're learning who these characters are, they're just fictional people. But then they begin to take on a life of their own, and the women become us--or rather, we magically become the heroine, experiencing love and passion with the hero. When you can't relate to the heroine, that's bad. And sometimes I have a very difficult time identifying with female leads. I don't know if it's because I'm a complicated person, or because I'm just naturally inclined to be put off by silliness, vanity, and too much bravado. Whatever it is, those sorts of heroines immediately put me off because I can't identify with their thoughts, motivations and behaviors.
To me, Jane Rankin is as 'normal' a woman as we can have, and truth be told, Jane is the heroine most like my true nature. She's a mixture of strength and vulnerability, who possesses nearly as sharp a tongue as Wallingford, but who has such a capacity to heal and nurture. She is a woman who longs, but who tempers that longing with practicality. I guess, what I like the most about Jane is that I admire her. If she were a live person, I could be friends with her. We could take tea and chat, or we could stroll through the gardens and I could speak of my biggest secrets, and know that Jane would never tell another soul. That's the kind of person Jane Rankin is. That's what drives Wallingford to possess her at all costs, the hidden essence of Jane which is nothing short of magical as he slowly encourages her set her innermost thoughts, fears and longings free.
In my mind, Jane is plain. Not ugly, mind. Just....average. I went trolling through pictures trying to find something suitable, and nothing was right. Except, I happened across this image and thought it perfect for one particular scene in Sinful. It's with Jane, and her employer, Lady Blackwood. Jane in this scene, is trying to maintain composure. Trying to be strong and dignified. But she is a woman who is hurting, and it's this picture, that reminds me so much of what Jane embodies. The woman holding Jane is too young to be Lady Blackwood, but the mood and emotions conveyed are very reminscent of the scene. The picture made me sigh, and hope that readers will like Jane as much as I do.
So tell me. Have you ever read a book where the name of the hero or heroine didn't match the character's personality? And, what fictional heroine have you most identified with?