People often ask if writing collaboratively ever causes dissension . Miraculously, the answer is no, not for us. Generally, we are of the same mind. When we are not, we recognize when the other knows best. Usually.
But there was this one time, and it was all over a name.
Many times, the characters just name themselves—at least the first name. We just know the name, like we know that he detests wine or that she is afraid of storms. But sometimes, they are a little stubborn and we have to name them.
So this one time. . . . We were about to introduce a secondary character who was going to go on to be a hero in the next book. We spent a long time designing the scene—you know, telling what happened as concisely as possible, writing the dialogue, describing the sun steaks in his hair and making sure it was understood he got those streaks from actually being in the sun. No chemical streaks for him, not our guy. Now it was time for me to go to the keyboard and put it on paper.
"One more thing," I said to her. "What's his name? Do you care?"
"I don't care," she said.
So then I did what I always do. I opened my file of the alphabetical list of people already in the world we had created. This is necessary, because I learned the hard way that I love me an "L" name above all others. I am also mighty fond of a "K". If I don't look at a list, we will be living in the land of "L" and "K".
Well, this time I had been careful about the "K's" so that was a possibility. Then, for the first name, I got out The Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherriyn Kenyon and my four baby naming books. For the last name, I reached for the Junior League, church, and Decatur Assembly directories and my file of programs from graduations, sporting events, and various awards presentations.
I was set. Pretty soon, secondary character, soon to be hero, high school football coach, who would have gone to the NFL had he not torn up his knee, was named Keith Hamilton. Did I say pretty soon? That's a lie. It took a while. And I don't even do any of that nonsense like looking up the meaning of names to match attributes of the character. I just don't think parents sit around and think, "My boy's going to be untamed so I'm going to name him Damien."
Anyway. I wrote the scene. Sent it to her. She called.
"His name is not Keith Hamilton!" I hadn't seen her so vehement since the time I had the captain of the guard in one of our elf fantasies build a fire in the heroine's parlor. "Keith Hamilton is not a hero's name. It's the name of an ice skater."
Okay, so I recognize that some names are not hero names. Jerry. Billy. Earl. Donny Lynn. Robby, unless it’s a period piece set in Scotland. But Keith Hamilton? What about that makes you think ice skater?
Besides, I knew she didn't know the single name of a real ice skater. She doesn't even watch ice skating. I am the one who likes ice skating, and as far as I knew, there were no ice skaters named Keith Hamilton.
"You said you didn't care," I reminded her, all the time thinking of how I'd poured over my books and cross checked names, even looked at the most popular name list for the year he was born.
"I don't care," she said. "Except not Keith Hamilton."
"All right, then," I challenged her. "What is his name?" I knew she didn't have any of the books; they were all at my house.
She thought for a minute, probably less. Okay, certainly less. "Nathan Scott," she said.
And there it was. Nathan Scott lives. Keith Hamilton skated off.
Do you labor over choosing names for your characters? Or when you named your children, did it come easily?