One of the most rewarding parts of being a writer is creating characters. Plot is important, but it’s the characters who stay with us long after the book is closed. Finding the perfect name for a character, though, can be tricky.
You know that scene in Disney’s Aladdin where Genie is trying to decide just which animal he should turn Abu into? Aladdin was easy: he gets to be a prince, but finding the perfect vehicle to present that manufactured prince to Agrabah was a bit more difficult. Remember that? With every snap of Genie’s blue fingers the poor monkey is transformed—first a camel and then a white stallion, even a shiny red car—until, at last, Genie finds the perfect beast for Aladdin to ride: an elephant.
Finding my main character’s name, Brielle, was a little like that. In many of the earlier drafts, she had a different name, an androgynous name, but for the sake of clarity I moved away from that and, after snapping my fingers a few times, chose something decidedly more feminine.
She’s a ballerina, and on a visual level, I love that the two words—ballerina and Brielle—share those long, leggy ‘L’s. I was also looking for a name that provides endless nickname opportunities. The intimacy of a friend or family member shortening your name is something I wanted for my lead. She feels alone for much of the novel, but I wanted to show, in a subtle way, that there are people who do care about her, who understand her history.
Her full name is Gabrielle, but most of the world knows her as Brielle. Her friends and family shorten it even further at times and call her Elle. It’s a crazy conglomeration of names stacked upon names, but it feels real to me. Like my friend Tyler who is also Ty but who, for some reason, we all call Gale. There’s a story there. Depth. And I like that.
Gabrielle worked in another way as well. I wanted to tie her name to the Celestial world I was building and it’s hard to get more angelic than the feminine version of Gabriel.
All in all, it just worked. It’s a choice I’m still happy with. It’s the finger snap that stuck, and like poor Abu, Brielle was the right vehicle to carry my main character’s voice from my head to the reader.