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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