Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character name crisis! May 6, 2010

This post chronicles the ongoing saga of one work-from-home freelance writer determined to write her first fiction novel, while raising two rambunctious preschoolers.

As I mentioned in Fiction Novel Writing: Chapter Two Begins! my second chapter’s narration springs from the mind of Mike Hayden, Treva’s father and the owner of Hayden Autos, a Southern California used-car dealership boasting mediocre success at best. A man of heart and good intentions, Mike’s hard work over the years have fallen short of his dreams, and now that his beloved wife Camille has passed, he’s becoming just a little bitter. Orange County’s rich just keep getting richer, while Hayden Autos  continues to struggle. When will it be Mike’s turn to shine?

As I dove into the chapter, I introduced Lyle Langley, Mike’s hero, nemesis and competitor. For whatever reason–writer’s intuition?–I Googled the name “Lyle Langley” and was quickly deflated to learn the name Lyle Langley belongs to one rather memorable character from the enormously popular Simpsons show. Remember Marge Vs. the Monorail (1993), when Lyle Langley, played by Phil Hartman, convinces the town of Springfield to construct a monorail? Not coincidentally, there are similarities between The Simpson’s Lyle and mine, which just goes to show how certain traits can become attached to names in our brains.

As we writers and journalists know, resources on the web must be very carefully fact-checked. As I dug deeper, I learned from Wikipedia (not the most reliable source) that Lyle’s last name was in fact Lanley, On Phil Hartman’s IMDB page, the character’s name is listed as Lyle Lanely. TheSimpsons.com doesn’t even mention the character on its Characters page.  However, Google has the most references to Lanley, so I’m guessing that’s the real one.

Even though my character’s name is, after all, original, this event was a total turn-off and sent me back to the baby name origin sites to look for new name ideas. I created a short list of first names to go with Langley:

  • Leonard–“strong as the lion”
  • Logan–“hollow”
  • Lowell–“wolf”
  • Louis–“fame and war”

In order to avoid the same pitfall, I fact-checked all combinations and learned that Leonard Langley is a well-known boxer, and Logan Langley is a popular name for young American men who share a passion for athletics. Considering that my character is in his late 60s, the name Logan would be too youthful. But isn’t it interesting that among the Logan Langleys I found, most were mentioned in various team/sports rankings?

The winning combination and new name for Mike’s nemesis will be Lowell Langley, a name best fitting my character, and apparently the most free to use.

Now, join me in the hunt for the perfect title for my novel!

Vote for your favorite book title!

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10 Responses to “Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character name crisis!”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RebeccaLacko. RebeccaLacko said: Character name crisis in Chp 2 of fiction novel! http://tinyurl.com/29yfdmz […]

  2. It sounds like you’ve moved on already, but for the record the character’s name in the episode is indeed “Lyle Lanley”, without the “g”. They show his name on screen, so there’s no doubt.

    Not that my opinion matters in the least, but I think you’d be fine with Lyle Langly. The “g” actually helps the alliteration a little.

    • rjlacko Says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! I agree, Lyle Langley works rather well, but I do like it with Lowell–it suits my character and I think it will stick. BTW, Your blog (deadhomersociety.wordpress.com) is hilarious! Good stuff.

  3. […] Fiction Writing Chapter Two: Character name crisis! – It sucks when the name of your villain so closely matches the world’s foremost fictional monorail salesman.  […]

  4. jessjess50 Says:

    Google makes it impossible to ‘just name’ your characters, let alone your children! I was all set to name my daughter ‘Emily’ until I did some research and realised it was has been one of the most popular names given to girls in the UK for the past few years. I gave it to the heroine in my novel instead 🙂

    How did you choose the name Treva? Is it pronounced with a hard or soft e? i.e. Treeva or Treva?

    • rjlacko Says:

      I know what you mean–naming babies now requires a new level of research! Even tougher is that you haven’t even met your baby, and you’re choosing a moniker they will carry their entire lives. I adore my children’s names–Joseph (the 4th!) and Noah. What name did you choose for your daughter?

      The name Treva is pronounced with a soft “e,” like a female form of Trevor. I wanted the Hayden children to be named within their father’s Irish heritage, and it crossed my mind that their Mother, Camille, was the type who likes a little twist on the traditional. Treva, to me, sounds strong yet unique. It also means “homestead” (and she is very home-centric) and “industrious”–and trust me, she will demonstrate the word industrious again and again!

  5. jessjess50 Says:

    You’re right, characters should be easier to name as you can pick something that reflects the personality that you have already built for them.

    Joseph and Noah are both gorgeous, strong, loving and not too overly used names.

    My daughter became an Eliza (which I think is much sharper and sassier sounding). Happily it turns out to have suited her much better – she is quite an independent and wilful young lady!

    I do sometimes wonder if children become the name we give them though but that is a whole other debate!

    Good luck with your story. I’ll be following your posts to see how you get on,

    Jessica Bull

    • rjlacko Says:

      Thanks so much, Jessica! I look forward to your input! Especially from someone who shares the same goals–and distractions!
      Eliza is wonderful. I have held that name in my heart for years–since I first saw Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. I absolutely adore the name, but as life and love would have it, I am the happy mother of boys. Eliza is that perfect balance of regality, history and formality, balanced with a contemporary sound, and can be shortened to any number of attractive (sharp and sassy, as you said!) nicknames. Lucky her.
      Studies have shown that names do in fact shape the personalities of children–but not 100% of the time. Often it is more that our children are shaped by others’ responses to their names. (I just read a study about how children with generally unattractive names are much more likely to wind up committing criminal acts. Top of the list? Henry and Walter.) Anyway, that also goes to show how important fictional characters’ names are–we need to influence our readers with our name choices. But, in writing the truth is always the same–Every word counts!

  6. Tim Burton Says:

    Whoa jessjess and rjlacko. I’ve just come across your comments re Eliza through a Google on ‘Eliza is wonderful’ while preparing the speech for my daughter’s wedding. I will quote your kind words! … 3.00, 29 May, St Mary’s Church Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridge UK


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