My name is...

Character Names: A Beginning, Middle and Pronunciation

When it came time to select the perfect protagonist name for my first novel, Alienable Rights, I gave Rowan a name traditionally spelled, and one that hopefully readers could pronounce. Not so with a few other character names in the Other Worldly series, which perhaps means it’s good I did not have children.

Because names stick with you, or rather the way your parents choose to spell your name certainly does. My name is pronounced Laureen, and it might have saved me a lot of aggravation if it were spelled that way, instead of with a yne.

People will inevitably call me Lauren, but also Lorraine, Lauralyn, Lauralene, Lorilene, or even Laverne. Apparently an een pronunciation is only comprehensible if there is a vowel or the letter L preceding it.

My alien character Roger aka Domitian, introduced in Feeling Alienated, was correct when he noted in Aliens Abound how the human eye is not all that observant. Nor is the ear, because even after I’ve told some folks my name, I still get called whatever they’ve apparently decided it should be.

I worked with one Marine lawyer who never stopped calling me Lorraine. This despite my attempt at levity by saying my name rhymed with Marine. If my name were spelled Larine, do you think it might have sunk in?

I used to be able to say my name was pronounced like Dentyne gum. But then they went and made Sensodyne toothpaste and I was royally screwed. Seemingly innocuous robotic electronic phone messages refer to me as Laur-rhine. It rhymes with wine, a libation I love. But I do not love or appreciate this ugly pronunciation of my name.

Despite telling readers in Alienable Rights that the character named Oapule was pronounced like the gemstone opal, my sister (brave but sometimes frustrated test reader) still says she doesn’t know how to pronounce it inside her head when reading. And she insists that Byrin (for Labyrinthian, an alien species from Mars, pronounced like Byron) is Bryn, rhyming with Lynn. It isn’t and it doesn’t, but who are we writers to argue with readers?

Readers also come up with their own character images and traits based on our descriptions. And that’s okay—we want that.

Therefore, you can call my characters by whatever name sounds right in your head—and Rowan’s Mom can be counted on to do just that—but you can’t call me Laverne. Or Mrs. or ma’am. Rowan Layne doesn’t like that either. And did you catch that yne in her last name? At least there’s an a in front of it so there should be no doubt about pronunciation.

I also created characters whose names rhyme with other characters—Gwynne, Wynne, Win, Owen, Rowan—which was purely unintentional. But I’m guilty of deliberately breaking the “rule” about not having too many character names begin with the same letter.

It was inevitable when it came to OW, as this is the Other Worldly series we’re talking about (which I came up with, by the way, before the dictionary powers that be decided it was one word, not hyphenated). Also the letter R, mostly due to an alien species known as Red Orbiters, and because it simply worked out that way.

I’m apparently as stubborn a writer as the roots of the Scottish thistle I’m currently researching for Being Alien, fourth book in the series coming later this year.

In which, I most definitely will be addressing the NMN issue I’ve also been plagued with all my life. Did you know that for those with no middle name, the federal government used to make you fill in the “middle name” space with NMN on security clearances and other endlessly tiresome employment forms? You weren’t allowed to leave that part blank just because your parents didn’t grace you with a middle name.

Rowan Layne is also peeved she has no middle name, and she pursues the issue with a vengeance in Being Alien with the naming of soon-to-be-born Red Orbiter offspring. No, post-middle-aged Rowan does not give birth to alien babies. These are not that kind of alien stories.

But the new characters will all have elaborately crafted and painstakingly chosen first and middle names. Their honorary Aunt Rowan insisted. Who was I to argue?

4 thoughts on “Character Names: A Beginning, Middle and Pronunciation”

  1. Once again you have me laughing so hard. I remember when you were about 7 you named yourself Sophia:). Xo

    1. How do I not remember that? I do remember signing my name, in about the second or third grade, as “Lauryne P. Wright,” using Mom’s initial of her detested middle name. Apparently my teacher let her know. No wonder you were Mom’s favorite 🙂 LOL But hey, at least I knew enough even then to not actually divulge her middle name.

  2. And then there’s the whole “Is that your middle name or first name” debate and then the lack of midwestern computer geeks to allow a good Ole southern name!
    And I almost pulled a thistle this morning in my weeding frenzy…

    1. No pulling thistles!!! Southern double names is why my Mom disliked her name. But you got a much cooler name to go with Laura!

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