The soft sci-fi/futuristic books I’ve done the most work on and have the most notes and memorized storylines for are What’s to Become of Us All? and Greentown. The latter is a book set in the future and could only be considered slightly soft sci-fi simply because it’s set in the future. It takes place in a fictional hippie community in Australia between the years 2023-26; the main character’s family came from Pennsylvania after her dad died in a mining accident. What’s to Become of Us All? spans 3001-06, and starts in St. Paul, Minnesota, and quickly moves to a space colony near Jupiter. That one has a plot too tied up in that stupid “Single moms by choice rock and ‘Nuclears’ suck and deserve discrimination!” crap to be entirely rewritten. When I get back to it, I’m going to have to restyle it as a sort of Brave New World or We-style dystopia, and show the resulting culture clash that comes when the protagonist leaves Earth and discovers people living in outer space mostly have nuclear families and don’t think it’s the best thing since sliced bread to be a single mom by choice and deliberately shun the mere idea of dating or having sex.
But I’m thinking the protagonists of these hiatused books might need more stand-out names. I already decided to change the name of the protagonist of Undersea World from Bella to Ghisolabella, because of a certain franchise that’s now made that name even more insanely trendy and overused. I was so embarrassed when I looked back on my notes and discovered her name wasn’t Bella by itself. It was a nickname for Witchabella. Well, I was only 12 years old when I came up with the idea for this book. I guess it was a good thing I had such a fertile imagination.
The protagonist of Greentown is named Terri, and her little sisters are Nikki and Vikki. I’ve got another Vikki in my Atlantic City books (Cinni’s granddaughter through her firstborn daughter Anastasia), a Viktoriya in my Russian novels, and a Victoria as the protagonist of the hiatused A Spacey Kind of Fun, which starts in the year 2050. The lattermost Victoria is called V.J., since I was just obsessed with initial names as a preteen. I think I’ll have to just call her Victoria or Vickie when I get back to it. I’m not against initial names, but too many of them can be really annoying, esp. if the person or character already has a perfectly fine full name.
Nikki’s not so bad as a character name if it’s not a main character, and if it can be short for something like Nicoletta or Nicolina, to be a little different. But the name Terri is just kinda there. The protagonist of WTBOUA? is named Casey. I’ve got nothing against either name, nor against people bearing those names, but when you’re talking about the shero of a book (as opposed to a secondary character), it seems you’d want something a little more uncommon, something to stand out. I’ve used plenty of established classics for characters over the years (e.g., Katherine, Elizabeth, and Mary in their various forms, the abovementioned Victoria, Sara[h], Jozef, Samuel, Peter, Philip, and Robert), but Terri and Casey still seem kinda nondescript when it comes to book characters.
My taste in names tends towards the classical eccentric and classical unusual styles, with names like Octavia, Justine, Eulalia, Ernestine, Oliver, Iolanthe, Wolfgang, Yseult, Bertrand, Claudius, Edgar, Felix, Herman, Gemma, Galatea, Ivy, Livia, Leopold, Lysander, those sorts of names. A name that really stands out (in a good way) helps to ensure a character is remembered for a long time to come. As fine, solid, and established as a name like Mary or John is, it’s so common it’s going to take a lot to get the character to really stand out. And since becoming a serious name nerd in 2002, when I started discovering reputable naming sites (not the crappy ones claiming Heaven spelt backwards is “Slavic” for “beautiful sparkly butterfly fairy princess”), I’ve found so many great names for my characters, and other names I’ve got reserved for future ones. I even learnt many of the so-called meanings in the old baby names pamphlet I used to use were dead wrong, sometimes hilariously so.
Casey starts out as a spoilt 13-year-old mall rat who cares more about gossip, boys, fads, and fashion than anything substantial. She’s pretty damn vain and unlikeable. Her mother’s foster twins M.J. and S.J. (who will be called by their real names, Meredith and Sara, when I return to the book) are actually more sympathetic, even though I was trying to write them as annoying little brats who dared to contradict Casey about everything and do things differently than Her Highness. I suppose a name like Casey could fit a character like that, since, let’s be honest, certain names have certain stereotypes and associations. The name Casey, in all its spelling variations, does seem to be associated with teen girls who frequent the mall and follow trends targeted to teens instead of serious students, Goths, romantics, or other types of stereotypes other names have.
But it’s just not the type of name I’d give to a character were I thinking up and starting that story now. When I was 12, I didn’t have a huge store of names to draw from, so I tended to pick names I already knew. I don’t want to give her a name conjuring up a completely opposite type of personality, like Calantha, Minerva, Zoraida, Sophronia, or Viviana, but it would be nice to find another name that comes across with a bit more personality and memorability. The name goes for Terri in Greentown.