The lead in your novel is named Lukas Landon. To paraphrase Albert Brooks in the film Broadcast News,
“That’s a lot of alliteration from anxious authors in not-so-powerful posts. What gives?
Naming is tricky. Few things can make a reader lose confidence in you faster than inaptly naming your characters.
At 15, when I first started writing fiction, I shorthanded character descriptions by attempting to shoehorn everything into their names. Brock Woodstrop. Bonita Solano. The kind of clumsy stuff you find in pulpy thrillers or cookie-cutter romances.
But there’s another pitfall as well. Names so forgettable or generic that the reader has difficulty keeping straight who’s who in the narrative.
My goal is to try to make sure character names are realistic, but also suitably tailored to who wears them.
I accidentally discovered a rich source for names while attending my daughter’s high school graduation.
She went to a large and diverse public school near Los Angeles.
Looking over the hundreds listed on the program I was struck by the rich cultural and ethnic diversity in both given and surnames.
I realized that graduation programs, old phone books, anything with lists of names can yield innumerable mix-and-match variations that help me get exactly the right fit for my characters.
In The Ocean Above Me the two characters I really wanted to make sure I got right, were obviously the main protagonists: journalist, Lukas Landon and shrimp boat captain, Clarita Esteban.
Landon, despite his worldly experiences, is still a bit of a gray man. Someone on the downward spiral of his life and career. So I didn’t want the name to be too flashy but would still stand out when seen on the by-lines of his articles. Story by Lukas Landon.
I’m not a big fan of alliteration for character names, but here it helped reinforce him to readers. Especially since, apart from his by-lines, almost no one uses his first name.
Everyone calls him Landon, denoting a lack of intimacy. The result of him keeping people at arm’s distance.
With Clarita Esteban I wanted a given name that was sharp, direct as she was, and a surname name that conveyed her Afro-Latinx heritage.
This would signpost to readers that she likely faced significantly more challenges in all aspects of life than her white, male counterparts.
But these struggles highlight her embrace of the stoic principle of Amor Fati. Not a victim. But a lover of fate, whatever may come.
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