Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Post with Angie Smibert

Overthinking Character Names for Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

I like naming things. In fact, I might even over-think my naming schemes.  (For instance, all my critters of the last twenty years have character or author names with a Southern or Celtic bent.)  When it comes to characters, I pour over baby name books, play around with online name generators, and even hit up the Social Security Administration database.

Here’s how I can up with several of the character’s names in Memento Nora.

Nora James:

Before I started writing, I knew I wanted the title to be a play on the phrase Memento Mori.  Latin for “Remember you must die,” Memento Mori is a type of art work designed to remind you of your mortality. So, the main character’s name needed to be in the title. Memento Jane? Not so much. Memento Nora? Yes.  Roughly translated it means “Remember Nora,” or it could mean “Remember, Nora,” both of which are appropriate for the story.

Since Nora is a happy consumer and popular girl, I wanted a nice simple white-bread, upper crusty kind of last name.  Hence, Nora James. (I couldn’t really call her Nora Jones.)

Micah Wallenberg:

Micah’s character is loosely inspired by someone I know, whose name is Mike. Micah is an updated (or depending how you look at it, old-fashioned) version. If you look at SSA database of popular baby names, US boy and girl names are trending to more old school, even Biblical names. In 2009, popular boy names are Jacob, Joshua, and Noah.  Micah just might work its way up there in a few more decades.

As for his surname, now we get a little serious. Wallenberg is the last name of a Swedish diplomat—Raoul Wallenberg—who helped many Jews escape Hungary during World War II.  Wallenberg is thought to have died in Soviet detention after 1947.  He’s remembered for his courage and non-violent opposition to tyranny.

Winter Nomura:

She’s of Japanese heritage but very American in character. I wanted her to have a striking and different first name to go with her family one. Since she has a dark and brooding personality, Winter seemed like a good fit. (Truthfully, I may have had Victoria Winters from Dark Shadows on my brain.) Winter’s mother, by the way, is called Spring.

Winter’s father’s family runs one of the biggest electronics companies in the world. However, despite being from this powerful family, Winter (and her grandfather) are essentially on their own.  Nomura means “no village” (I think) in Japanese.

Koji Yamada:

Winter’s grandfather has built an obstacle course from an old Japanese competition show called Sasuke in his backyard. (Sasuke is called Ninja Warrior in the US.)  I chose his name from actual Sasuke contestants.  The show is named for a famous ninja in Japanese folklore. Winter calls her grandfather Sasuke-san without knowing how right she is about that nickname.


She’s the black dog that guards Black Dog Village.  Bridget (Brigid) is the Celtic goddess of the hearth and poetry, an apt guardian for a homeless village where the chief baker likes to quote poetry.

True confession. Bridget is actually named after my dog.  And my Bridget is named for Helen Fielding’s main character in Bridget Jones Diary.  See? Literary character with a Celtic bent.

See readers? I'm not the only one who obsesses! <3 G.C.

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