Thursday, June 07, 2012

It's All in the Name

Creating people from scratch is a tricky business. Just ask the Big Guy upstairs. Except in my case I'm not creating real people, just the kind that run around in my head and in my stories. And then I have to name them. Which is like naming your kid, only harder because not only does it have to be a name that suits this imaginary person, but it can't be too much like the names of any of the other imaginary people in the story or readers will get confused, and it can't be a name that reminds people of someone famous...or worse, infamous. 

So after much pondering and puzzling, I named my character Blaize. Then I spent a year writing a book in which he played, if not a leading role, at least a fairly major part. Then I sat down with my agent to rework the book and the first thing she said was, "You have to change his name. Blaize is what strippers call themselves."

Oh. Well. Another lesson learned in the big city by this country hick. 

So I pondered and puzzled a whole lot more because if finding a name is hard, changing a name this late in the game is like re-christening your child when they start high school. Or maybe college. Finally I narrowed it down to two: Dylan or Delon. I was leaning toward the second, but I kept thinking, "Would these Texans really name their kid Delon?" Then I recalled the story my sister told me about why her son's name didn't turn out to be exactly what she planned. But rather than me explaining, I'll let Delon tell you himself.

How I Got this Way

My name is Delon Sanchez. Yeah, I know. Not exactly a traditional Hispanic name, Delon. Sounds like I should be a basketball player from inner city Houston not a cowboy from out by Amarillo, but there's a pretty good story behind it.

My dad's grandparents immigrated from Mexico back in the late forties and worked their way up to the Texas Panhandle. Like most of his generation of the family my dad speaks Spanish, but he doesn't write or read it much. My mother was the first in her family to be born in the United States. She grew up in a border town where Spanish was the dominant language and though she speaks English well enough, she still has a strong accent.

And yes, this matters when it comes to how I became Delon.

When my older brother was born my mother didn't get any say in what he was named because he's The Man, the heir to the throne at Sanchez Trucking. He got saddled with the names handed down by my dad and my granddad: Benito Gilberto Sanchez Rivera. They call him Gil so's not to confuse him with my dad, Benito.

When my mother found out I was going to be a boy, she informed my dad that she was naming this one whatever she wanted. I imagine there were a few arguments. There are always arguments between my parents. They seem to like it. At some point my mother must've won, and then my dad tuned out because that's what he does when he doesn't get his way, and he wasn't really listening when my mother declared she was naming me after her favorite singer. Meh. Who paid attention to singers, anyway?

So the big day came. Things didn't go as expected and I ended up being delivered by C-section.  Mom was still off in La-La Land when they came around to see what name to put on the birth certificate, but Dad knew what she wanted so he filled it out and sent them on their way.

I'd been home from the hospital almost two weeks when the official version of my birth certificate came in the mail. According to my aunt, she heard the shrieking from clear across town. My mother shoved it under Dad's nose. "What the hell is this? Day-loan? What kind of name is that? He's supposed to be named after Bob Dylan."

"What are you talking about?" Dad grabbed the certificate, pointed at the name. "Dee-lon. I wrote it down exactly how you said it."

So here I am.


Megan Coakley said...

Ah,the name issue. I was told early on to change one of the names of two of my most important characters because they both start with "C."

In defense of Blaize, I will tell you that not everyone knows stripper names. When I think of them, they're usually women not cowboys. Not that I would close the door on a cowboy stripper...

Anyway, I also know a real-life Blaze, whose last name is Feury! His parents are athletes, so I imagine they thought it was cool. He's a great kid who lives up to his name. I guess I'm hesitant to replace your Blaize with a Delon, although I did enjoy his naming story!

Linda G. said...

LOL! That's a great background story.

I like the name Delon. Can't wait to read more about him! :)

Unknown said...

That name story is completely, utterly awesome.


(BTW, one of my standard threats to my kids when they misbehave is that I'm going to go to the courthouse and change their names to Agatha. Or worse: Donna.)