Don’t let the title of this post fool you. I am not writing a book. I sort of was for about half of National Novel Writing Month, but no more. This post is about names and likeability and originality. What that means in real world terms is that’s they’re actually just my random thoughts, but I want to let them out into the world, to see if any of you think the same things (sometimes).
I have an uncommon-ish sort of name: Cecelia. It doesn’t show up much in art or literature. Fanny Burney, a contemporary of Jane Austen, wrote a novel called Cecilia, which I own but have never read. Forgive me – it’s 1,200+ pages of romance, counter-romance and mystery. I tried that with Anna Karenina and failed miserably. But there’s also a Simon & Garfunkel song called Cecilia, and I’d estimate that half of the people I meet for the first time spontaneously serenade me with it – regardless of the strength or quality of their singing voices.
And on top of that, my sister is called Virginia, or Ginny for short. Very slightly more common than Cecelia, but still an old-fashioned name, and rare in literature. It’s really no surprise then that when we find a novel, not to mention a GOOD novel, with one of our names in it, that we get a little excited. I can think of three shining examples of this (though I’m sure there are more and I’m just forgetting them).
The first is Kristen D. Randle’s The Only Alien on the Planet. The main character is Virginia, but she goes by Ginny, just as my sister does. I simply loved that book, and would have done so regardless of what the character’s name was. But since her name was Ginny, I could read it, discover its merit, and then pass it on to my sister, all the while knowing that she wouldn’t be able to resist a good book AND a character with her name (this was at a point where she refused to read anything I’d read).
And the second case is Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword. The main character’s name in this novel is Harry – which is my dad’s name – and she’s a bit of a tomboy. But the book starts slowly, and I may have never gotten into the intense and adventurous bit if I hadn’t been caught by the mention of a ship called the Cecilia in the first couple pages. It’s the little things that keep you reading sometimes, and I’m very glad that I did read that book – it’s become a comfortable standard and McKinley one of my favorite authors of all time.
And the third example – another book that I haven’t read but have always meant to (as it was co-written by two seriously talented/favorite authors) is Sorcery and Cecelia, by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede. I’ve always wanted to cross-examine these authors, and ask how they came up with Cecelia – I mean, the name with my less-common spelling and everything! And also why I was unlucky enough at age 9 to have my mother find that book in my library stack and disapprove of it on sight. May have had something to do with ‘Sorcery’ in the title…but still. No excuse for why I haven’t read it since!
So – I have a few questions. Have you ever seen your name in a book? Did it make an impression? Were you more willing to like the book? If you haven’t found your name in a book yet, which genre will it most likely be found in?
Tell me your name and character stories!