Names, Names, Names

I’ve been brainstorming about names for a week or two, in between heat waves and book binges and headaches and out-of-town visitors.

I like finding the right sound for a character name, but I also like playing with connotations. In MY LADY GAMESTER, I named the hero’s somewhat immature, rather weak younger brother Edmund — hoping to draw on memories of either the Edmund in THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE, or the one in MANSFIELD PARK (or both).

On the other hand, the heroine’s younger brother was Tom. As opposed to Edmund, Tom was boyish, energetic, and none too sophisticated.

But right now, I’m figuring out names for my work in progress, which is a young adult novel (and, eventually, a loosely-linked series of young adult novels.) The first one has a lot of minor characters, so I need to find names which are memorable, distinct, and sound like the character they represent. And, if I’m lucky, the social group the character belongs to!

See, in the modern-day high school where my story takes place, there are two basic social groups I’m dealing with:

1) the group which, for lack of a better term, I’m currently calling the POPULAR KIDS, who are high-achieving, good-looking, athletic kids from well-to-do families; and

2) the group which for convenience sake I’m calling the NERDY KIDS, who are brainy and studious and come from more varied backgrounds than group #1.

However, I’m having a little bit of difficulty, so…if you could all help me out a bit, I’d really appreciate it!!! Could you let me know, on first seeing each of the following girl’s names, which of the above two groups you would expect them to belong to? (Knee-jerk reaction here.)

Gretchen
June
Harmony
Nia
Wren
Jena
Wynne
Jazz
Tabitha
Holly
Wenda
Hope
Ivy
Jasmine
Winter
Jenny

Thank you all SO much!!!!

Cara
Cara King
, who hated her hard-to-spell-or-pronounce name as a kid

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Ooh, I love talking names!

Gretchen – nerdy
June – nerdy
Harmony – popular
Nia – popular
Wren – nerdy
Jena – popular
Wynne – popular
Jazz – nerdy
Tabitha – nerdy
Holly – popular
Wenda – nerdy
Hope – popular
Ivy – nerdy
Jasmine – popular
Winter – nerdy
Jenny – nerdy

I just spent the morning naming characters myself. I’m planning to eventually introduce an American couple to the otherwise British core group of my alternative history, and I wanted names that set them apart without sounding over-the-top or backwoodsy, since they’re well-connected, reasonably sophisticated Bostonians. I came up with Samuel and Rebecca Caton, which I hope has the right ring…

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

I didn’t know “Cara” was hard to spell or pronounce. I have had so many different variations of “Soleore” (soh-leo-ray). To wit: soh-leo-rr, soh-lo(umlaut)-rr, sol-ee-yore (hee-haw; no, my ancestors weren’t the Disney family, equines, or other beasts).

P = popular
N = nerdy

Gretchen – N
June – P
Harmony – P
Nia – P
Wren – N
Jena – P
Wynne – P
Jazz – N
Tabitha – N
Holly – P
Wenda – N
Hope – both
Ivy – N
Jasmine – N
Winter – neither
Jenny – P

doglady
14 years ago

Hmmm. This takes some thought.

Gretchen – popular
June – popular
Harmony – nerdy
Nia – popular
Wren – Nerdy
Jena – Popular
Wynne – nerdy
Jazz – nerdy
Tabitha – popular
Holly – popular
Wenda – nerdy
Hope – popular
Ivy – popular
Jasmine – popular
Winter – nerdy
Jenny – nerdy

And Susan I think your names are spot on.

limecello
14 years ago

Group 1: Jena, Harmony, Ivy, Jasmine, Jenny, Hope, Nia

Group 2: Gretchen, Wren, Wynne, Jazz, Tabitha, Holly, Wenda, Winter

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

Gretchen–nerdy
June–nerdy
Harmony–nerdy
Nia–popular
Wren–nerdy
Jena–popular
Wynne–popular
Jazz–popular
Tabitha–popular
Holly–popular
Wenda–nerdy
Hope–nerdy
Ivy–popular
Jasmine–popular
Winter–nerdy
Jenny–popular

Fun, Cara!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I have not paid attention to others’ choices, but mine usually skew the results. I may be thinking with an old-fashioned mind.

Gretchen nerdy
June Popular
Harmony Popular
Nia Nerdy
Wren Nerdy
Jena popular
Wynne nerdy
Jazz nerdy
Tabitha nerdy
Holly popular
Wenda popular
Hope popular
Ivy nerdy
Jasmine popular
Winter nerdy
Jenny popular

Cara King
14 years ago

Susan, Keira, limecello, Doglady, Megan, and Diane — thanks so much!!!! That’s a huge, huge help.

Susan, I think Samuel & Rebecca Caton sound perfect for what you want!

Keira, sympathy on the difficult-to-pronounce last name. (A bonus: now I know how to pronounce it! And it was just what I’d been guessing it was, handily enough!)

As to my first name, it’s common enough nowadays, but when I was a kid, pretty much 95 percent of folks who saw it written pronounced it kahra (like a car), instead of (more or less) kerra or kara, which mine is. And of folks who heard it first, 95% seemed to spell it Kara. (Luckily for me, the combination of spelling & pronunciation I use is much more common now, for some reason…)

Thanks again, everyone!!!

Cara

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

Cara, I have to admit I’ve been pronouncing it kahra in my mind, since that’s how most of the Cara/Karas I’ve met say it. I’ll try to remember to say it right if/when I meet you in person!

Todd
14 years ago

The problem with deciding nerd girl names–as we nerd guys can attest–is that there just aren’t enough nerd girls out there to collect a decent sample. Took me years to find a good one…

Gretchen–nerdy
June–popular
Harmony–popular
Nia–nerdy
Wren–nerdy
Jena–popular
Wynne–nerdy
Jazz–nerdy
Tabitha–witch, I mean, nerdy
Holly–popular
Wenda–nerdy
Hope–could be either, maybe a bit nerdy
Ivy–nerdy
Jasmine–nerdy
Winter–hippy, which may or may not mean nerdy
Jenny–nerdy

Todd-who-despite-his-very-manly-name-is-still-surprisingly-nerdy