Thursday, April 5, 2012

Emma Earl: What's In a Name?

Why was our hero Emma Earl named Emma and not Petunia?  Simple.  In the original short story she appears in, Heart of a Hero, which was part of a group of stories, I was having some fun and using the letter ‘E’ for every main character.  So we had Elena, Eloise, Eric, and so forth.  When it came to her name I wanted to use that old alliteral superhero naming scheme like Lois Lane, Vicki Vale, Peter Parker, or in a way even Clark Kent as both of his names have the hard-K sound.  I came up with the last name Earl after the Rutger Hauer character in “Batman Begins” and then Emma just kind of fell into place.  Then randomly I gave her middle name as “Jane.”  Later I came up with a clever (to me at least) story about her name, saying that her mom had a thing for Jane Austen, hence her name is Emma (like the book) and Jane (like the author).  Neat, huh?

Despite the almost arbitrary nature of the name, now it’s like I’ve taken possession of it.  So if I’m on the street and some mom says, “Come here Emma” I’ll look over and think, “Hey, that’s not her!”

The other thing is that once I do that with a character, I sort of retire that name.  So you’ll never see another Emma in any future stories of mine, unless I’m being ironic.  Just like you don’t see any other characters named Lisa or Samantha or Floyd after a certain point for the same reason.  Obviously we’re not going to have another character named Frost either.  (There was another name I came up with arbitrarily because since I had used “E”s previously I decided to use “F” names that time and it just popped into my head.  Then I came up with the story in the book about it being the last name of the nurse who helps his mom deliver him and since it’s a boy and Matilda isn’t a good name for a boy, she names him Frost instead.)

Speaking of F, F is for Financial District:  Center of it All!


  1. I think it brings something to a story to have all this background with the characters. It makes it feel more real. At the very least I think it shows the writers cares about what he is writing about.

  2. So the names are the only part of your writing that ISN'T carefully plotted out from your secret lair miles below a Panera?

    That's how I imagine your writing career: you go to Panera with your laptop, sit at a table, and wait until nobody's looking. Then you hit the "ESC" key, and the table flips around so that there's a robot you sitting and looking at a mockup of a laptop, while the real you is whisked down an airshaft, Perry The Platypus-style, until you get to your underground headquarters, which is full of bulldog-inspired furniture. And supermodels. All authors have access to supermodels, right?

    Your plan will work out fine until that robot becomes self-aware and starts trying to live your life on the surface, requiring that you join forces with Michael Offutt and Rusty and Andrew to destroy it.

  3. Feel free to use that plot for a book, someday, in case you ever run out of GOOD storylines.

  4. I think it's important that writers have enough invested in their characters to feel that they are real. That makes it easier for we readers to accept them as real.

  5. Honestly, the great thing about this series that is showing from all these posts (and I'm setting aside the snark) is how much thought you have put into it. All of these names were not just taken out of a hat. You have considered background, race, nationalities, thoughts and beliefs, history...everything before even penning the first word. It's similar to all the work that Tolkien did when he set out to write "Lord of the Rings". I'm really excited to read this book when it becomes available. Do you have a date yet?

  6. Character names are essential. They carry much more weight than many people realize. Great post! :)

  7. I feel like I should have a good response... especially to what Briane said, but it's late, I'm tired, and nothing's coming.

  8. I want somebody to write Briane's story.



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