Monday, June 28, 2010

You Call My Name

Today at the bookstore, I decided to buy the first book in a paranormal mystery series by an author I hadn't read before. All was well until I came to a paragraph in which the narrator talked about people coming from the mountains of Wisconsin. Since the mountains of Wisconsin are as well known as the flatlands of Tibet (as Eugene put it), I was a bit taken aback. I didn't hurl the book across the room, but it did count as a serious strike against the author in my mind.

Something else that struck me was the introduction of a secondary character named Sandra. Since my name isn't all that common these days (and it's used more often as "Sandy," which I've never liked as a nickname), that certainly caught my attention. But although this character was friendly toward the narrator/protagonist, the narrator didn't like her too much. (This story is set in San Francisco. The narrator, a witch, thought Sandra, who owns a shop catering to tourists looking for the 60's San Francisco experience, didn't take the supernatural seriously enough.) Perhaps I'm too sensitive to this, but every time I read about a character named Sandra, she's never portrayed as a positive character. I wonder if people just have bad connotations about the name. Perhaps the name "Sandra" doesn't sound as friendly as "Sandy" does, though I feel it fits me better.

I'm not sure there's a writing lesson to this. Unless you're making up names (and thereby losing the power of association), you will use a name a potential reader might have. People with common names might be used to seeing them in stories, so perhaps it wouldn't bother them to see someone with their name as an antagonist or even villain. For someone with a rare name, it might be a different story. There may be many types of Michaels, but only a couple Quincys.

Have you read about a character with your name? If so, did you like how this character came across, and did it make a difference to you as you read?


Anonymous said...

When I encounter a Barbara in a novel, she's usually cool. If she's Barb, however, she's a total ass. It's one of the reasons I object to being called Barb.

Eric said...

My name usually invokes images of Erik the Viking (at least to me). It also irritates me when people assume I use a "K" rather than a "C" in my name (or worse, the dreaded "CK"). I love your comment about the mountains of Wisconsin though. Hilarious what bugs us, huh?

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Barbara--I'm glad to hear you've had good experiences with your name in fiction.

Eric--I used to live in Wisconsin and went to school at UW-Madison, so it's a personal thing for me. While some of the hills are steep, they don't qualify as mountains. It seems like something she could have checked easily and didn't bother doing so.

Anyway, I'm near the end of the book now. I thought for a while that that Sandra was going to be the murderer, but I was wrong. She turned out to be on the good side after all. Go Sandras!

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