Monday, September 12, 2011

What's in a name?

Several months ago, my mom and I were talking about my writing career. She asked me what name I planned to go by, what pen name I was going to use. “Maybe,” she said, “you should choose a name that’s easier to pronounce than Gligor. Don’t most writers do that?” Our conversation reminded me of an article I once read. It was an interview with actress, Jacqueline Bisset. When the interviewer told Jacqueline that he’d heard several variations on how to pronounce her last name and asked her which was correct, she replied, “Biss-It, like Kiss it.” I think that answered his question.

Names are important; they represent who we are. When I write, I am extremely careful when choosing the names for my characters. I’ve read novels where two of the main characters had names that were so similar, beginning with the same letter, etc., that it was a bit confusing. The last thing that I want to do is confuse my readers because a confused reader may get frustrated and put down my book. I also select names that “feel” right for my characters, that seem to fit them. For example, Olivia Berger is one of the characters in both of my novels. The name suits her. You’ll have to read my novels to find out why.

So, back to the answer that I gave my mother. While I don’t see anything wrong with using a pseudonym (sometimes a writer has a good reason to do that), I prefer not to. Why? Because Gligor is my family name; it was my grandfather’s and my father’s name and I’m proud to have it. As far as the pronunciation goes: Gligor rhymes with tiger. Not too hard to pronounce, after all, is it?


  1. I find that coming up with character names is getting harder and harder. I'll go through the phone book for ideas, and then decide on the perfect name. Then I Google it to be sure it isn't already in use, and nine times out of ten, I find thirteen different people with the same name, four Facebook pages, three online consulting businesses, and four sites that sell prescription drugs from overseas. It just seems like it's getting harder and harder.

    William Doonan

  2. Robert O'HannesonSeptember 12, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Names are important. Stig Larson's three books with Sweedish names all starting with the same letter were a bit difficult to digest in the beginning, but the writing was so compelling that after the first few pages, the names didn't matter. Keep your name. It's a great one.

  3. True, it can be difficult coming up with names for our characters. I have a paperback book, "Name Your Baby," which I've found to be very useful. In addition to listing a wide variety of names, it also gives the origin and meaning of each name. Lots of fun to look through.

  4. Robert,
    Thanks! I'll definitely keep my name! My hope is to see it on the cover of "Mixed Messages" one of these days - soon, I hope.

  5. While I don't have a problem with my surname, I do with my first name, Marja. I've been called Marta, Marha, Marga--you name it. It's pronounced with a hard "j", Like large, only with an "a" on the end.

    Yep. I like that you're going to keep your own name.

    Marja McGraw

  6. Great that your name rhymes with Tiger. Must give you a feeling of power to tell people that.

    Character names are fun. Dickens had a fine time naming his characters, especially the parsimonious, pompous, and portly.

  7. Patricia, I love the name Gligor...a great name for a character. I enjoyed the article augie

  8. Thanks, Marja, John and Augie for your comments.
    Marja, I know what you mean. I've come across characters' names in novels I've read that I was never really sure how to pronounce; it makes for difficult reading. Still, I think "Marja" is a beautiful name!
    John, I WISH I felt powerful! Still, I do get a kick out of the "Gligor-Tiger" thing.
    Augie, Thank you! The name is Romanian and you're right: I guess I can be a "character."

  9. My pen name is my best friend, Grandma Erma K. Hinkson. She always threatened to come back and haunt me if I ever named a child Erma. I just switched around her name for myself. I also use several baby name books, the meaning and sound of the name has to fit my characters. If my character doesn't like it she/he will let me know.