Monday, May 24, 2010

5/24/10: What's in a Name?

Everyone seems to have a different take on conjuring names for fictional characters. Some writers take the passive approach, using whatever functional title that comes to mind; others make a science of it, correlating popular baby-names for the time period of their fiction, researching regional trends, commencing Pagan rituals, etc., etc. Me, I'm one of the former. It's not that I'm lazy or don't want to enrich my character with a fitting name, I just have faith in whatever my strange mind barfs up when the time comes. I rarely get a bum name, so I've come to stick with this non-process.

Today was no exception. I was finishing up a short piece I've been working on, and I needed a name. Raymond, the erudite name-creature in my head said, so I put it down. But then I needed a last name, and the creature went suspiciously silent. I pondered this a moment, during which I resorted to feeling around Raymond's character some. He was a doctor, I knew, as required by his role in my narrative, and then it hit me that he was Jewish, so I began swishing these attributes through my mind's mouth, seeing what taste it made -- and that's when his surname came to me, Scheinlind. Very Jewish, kind of doctor -- perfect. However, I wasn't sure if I was spelling it right, so I consulted Google, entering, simply, "scheinlind".

A page of results bearing the name came up, so I knew I'd hit the nail on my head. Before I closed out my browser and went back to work, though, I noticed something about the first hit on Google's list: it opened with an account of someone who'd "recently read a beautiful new translation of the Book of Job by Raymond Scheinlind."

If I happen to meet Raymond Scheinlind when I'm at the post office today, I'm going to run screaming (it's nothing personal, Mr. Scheinlind, you understand).

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