What’s In A Name? …Actually… Everything!


I’ve been thinking about this for a while, especially since SORB is at the front of my mind.

My name is Ileandra Young.

It’s a name I’ve used for my online presence for very many years and it’s the name I’ll be publishing under. It isn’t the name on my birth certificate, but it’s a name that’s very much became mine in the years I’ve used it.
I remember meeting some buddies that were previously only online buddies before that point. I was introduced as ‘Ileandra’ because that was my forum handle and, to this day, those lovely people still call me ‘Illy.’
I love it.
So so much.

However… it’s also the name of the female protagonist in my first novel.

Whaaaa?

I didn’t plan to do that. As I said; I like the name, so it seemed only natural (when I was 14) to use the same name for the character I loved so much. It stuck.
I have an online RPG character with the same name.
I also wrote the back story for that character a few years ago; the basis of a multi book, epic fantasy series (which I’m longing to get back to). Of course, she had the same name.
I know I can’t use the same name everywhere so the character in that epic fantasy has become D’nai T’keyah (which, though unusual to the ear, has a full explanation within the text). But even that was a hard decision to make.

Harder still is the decision I’m facing now; do I change the character’s name so it doesn’t match mine? Or, worse than that, do I change my name? Maybe publish under The Shared Brain’s name?
I have no idea how to make this decision, but these are some of the things I’m considering. This is in no way an exhaustive list.

Leaving Things As They Are:

Pros

  • I don’t have to acclimatise myself with a new name that can be disorienting and annoying
  • I already have an online presence as ‘Ileandra Young’ which can feed into the book
  • It gives the story a tiny edge of ‘is this real?’ which could work in it’s favour

Cons

  • It’s conceited (or at least it feels that way)
  • It could cause confusion with readers who don’t understand exactly what they’re reading
  • It might would look weird on the back cover blurb

Changing Things Up:

Pros

  • Completely gets rid of potential confusion
  • I could use the name elsewhere (though I probably wouldn’t as I’d have the same problem!)
  • The name remains my own rather than something that I have to share with a character

Cons:

  • I have to find new a new damn name!

This is very difficult. I know there must be some authors out there who have given characters the same names as themselves. Certainly minor characters. However my Google-Fu has failed me and I can think of only one author who has named their protagonist after themselves and that’s Darren Shan. Granted, his actual name is Darren Oโ€™Shaughnessy, but he writes under Darren Shan and that’s the name of his character. Beyond that… I got nothing.

I’m really struggling here.

I take great pride in being true to myself and what I want. For doing things slightly differently. But is this too much?

The fact that I can find only one author that has done the same thing must mean something, but deep inside I honestly feel that to change the name is to cheat myself. I’ve spent years thinking about this character and seeing her name in a book I can hold. It would be a mega blow to find, after all this time, that the name won’t work after.

A few months back, I posted a comment on an excellent blog post over at Kate’s place. If you’re unfamiliar with her blog, really do check it out; she’s a brilliant writer and with a great voice. But this post struck me for several reasons:

  1. This ‘Sheba’ woman is part of what’s killing indie authors (IMO)
  2. Pen names get a bad rap for all sorts of reasons
  3. It is often assumed that writers who write across genres will separate them with different names
  4. My pen name is nothing like that

The Brain came very close to changing her name to mine after our 18th birthday. Looking at passports, credit cards, letters and business cards would have felt wonderful with that name on the front.
I’ll explain why.

In the early days, when Silk Over Razor Blades was still called To Be A Teenage Vampire, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t unhappy but I was 15, I didn’t have a boyfriend, I was tubby, I hated my hair and my friends kept me around because I made them look good. I didn’t go on dates, or smoke, or drink, or sleep around so I had no exciting stories to tell at parties (unless you counted the ones I made up) and a couple of years after that, my parents split. So I must have felt the tension in the house.

But… this character… this Ileandra Young in my stories had all sorts of cool things that I wanted. She had lots of friends, a doting boyfriend, cool clothes…. But more than that she had the qualities in character that I wished I had. She was funny. Kind. Loyal. Well loved. Smart. Opinionated without being a bitch. So, so many things.

Then the name Ileandra Young became a symbol of all the things I wanted. I thought… if I could write about it, I could take what I wanted from her experiences and bring them into my own life.

To some degree I have. I’m certainly far happier than I was back then. A lot of that is the result of growing up and understanding the difference between what’s important and what’s not. What I want and what I need.

The point is… with all that history behind it, the name Ileandra Young is so much more than a pen name and a hell of a lot more than the name of a character. And attaching it to this book (and future ones) is like the end of the game. The ribbon wrapped around the cake in the store window. The finishing touch.
It is (and would be) the proof that I finally achieved everything that I wanted to.

Phew…. Deep.

That’s my heart on the floor, pinned out for you to see. o.O Didn’t mean to do that; funny how things just get away from you.

Okay… let’s reel it back a bit.
Have you guys come across any protagonists named for their authors? There must be more than Darren out there, I refuse to believe otherwise. But I’m stuck. Fortunately,
together we are strong and combining your brain power with mine should help.

Come on… make me feel better here and tell me what you think? Would you ever consider using your name for a character in a book? Have you seen someone else do it? Would it confuse you to read a book written (for all intents and purposes) by the protagonist? Does it add to the tale or just disrupt the story for you?
Tell me, tell me, tell me!
new ileandra signature,

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About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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14 Responses to What’s In A Name? …Actually… Everything!

  1. Hey Ileandra!

    Very interesting problem. I haven’t seen it done but I considered writing under the name of a main character in one of my novels that’s turning out to be a memoir. That made some sense except that she… well, there you go! I decided against it, however the thing isn’t published yet so I may still change my mind.
    As for your dilemma, I would consider your audience. How many people know about the writer, Ileandra Young, versus he number of people who may know your protag’s name. I doubt there’s any who know the character name and not the author! My guess is more people know the author so I might lean towards changing the character’s name and keep your own for yourself.
    Having said that, I know that after all the time invested in developing that character and the story around her, you do become attached and can find it very difficult to change her name.
    From a marketing point of view it could be a bad idea to change your name unless you’re very careful about keeping your followers aware of the transition.
    For example if I dissappear from the blogging world for a few months (like I have!), I might completely miss the fact that you have changed names.
    Personally, I think it’s better to change the character’s name. People know you. They know your book. If the character’s name changes they’ve still got the other two links. If you change your own name you’re breaking a bigger, stronger connection with people.

    Cheers,

    Richard.

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    • Thanks Richard.
      I’m starting to lean towards that myself. I wrote that post a while back and have had it scheduled in and I’ve thought about little else but this ‘problem’.

      Changing the MY name, as you say, would be potentially problematic for all the reasons you mention and also because of my domains and email addresses! Haha, much better to fiddle with the character.

      It will be hard though. I’m going to have to ease myself into it somehow. o.O

      Like

  2. The fact that you’re blogging about your concerns tells me that you’re not really all that conceited. This is one of those difficult choices that you’re going to have to live with when the story is printed and out there.

    One way of making a subtle distinction between yourself and the character would be to have the character occasionally enumerate herself (e.g. Ileandra the Third) suggesting that she is not the only one, and to distinguish her accomplishments from the others that have come before. You need not make the same distinction, but since you are the author of everything that is, perhaps you are the First. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In the same vein, perhaps the character’s last name could change, gaining a prefix or suffix depending on her lineage.

    Best of all, these are things which can be casually dropped into a blurb to make that distinction.

    Up to you though.

    Like

  3. sallyedmans says:

    I’m in an odd camp here, because I knew you by your given name before I knew you by the name you’ve given yourself. And I love your given name – it’s on a list of names to consider if I ever have a daughter (although, admittedly, as a shortened version of something else). I’d trade that or Ileandra for my name any day.

    As for naming your protagonist Ileandra, you’ll see it’s a note I’ve scribbled quite early on on the beta MS. I’m not going to deny that I am as blonde as my hair, and I get really easily confused. I wasn’t (and am still not) entirely sure what’s going on. Is it pseudo-autobiographical? If the author has the same name as the protagonist, why is it written in the third person? I suspected you were trying to lend this air of mystery to it, but the blonde in me went bananas.

    And Jane Austen was famous for naming lots of her characters Jane. It’s not quite the same, but it always makes me chuckle how she seems to grasp for a name and wind up picking Jane over and over. I don’t think any of her protagonists were named Jane, but some of them are major characters and I think that her choice of who gets given her name says quite a lot – not so much about how she sees herself, but how she aspires to be.

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    • ^_^ Thanks hon.
      I’ve not read much Jane Austen, but the novels I have read do indeed have Janes in them. And I never noticed how ‘strange’ that was until just this moment. Ha, guess I don’t pay enough attention when I’m reading.
      I think with bit parts and smaller characters it’s not such a big deal, but the fact that I’m questioning it at all tells me that there’s doubts in my mind.

      Pseudo-autubographical would be really, really cool, but I have to face facts; it’s just not that type of book. Vampires and ancient egypt and weddings and blah, blah, blah. As much as I might like some aspects of Ileandra’s life (the character) I just don’t think it’s going to happen. …though I will be at JF in July ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ve made peace with my given name, or at least The Shared Brain has :-p but I’d still prefer to see ‘Ileandra Young’ on the book somewhere. I guess if I keep it as my name rather than that character’s, I’ll get to see it over and over as I keep publishing. That’s all sorts of cool. ^_^

      Like

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  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Well, Jane is a very common name, and especially when Jane Austen was writing. But even today, Ileandra is not. And I could see where readers might be confused. After all, readers have been known to get confused when two characters have similar names. So an author and character sharing the name could cause problems. And I’m willing to bet that if you went the traditional publication route, an agent and editor would INSIST that your name and the character’s be different.

    I suspect more people are familiar with you as Ileandra Young than they are with your character. And that leads me to think it might be better for you to keep the name and change the character’s. Maybe there’s a name that has a similar sound or “ring” that the character could use?

    Like

    • I’ve been pondering this for ages now. Because the name has SUCH emotional weight, I’m having real trouble finding something with the same sort of feel. o.O

      I know I’ll crack it eventually (character names is one of my favourite things to work on, especially in my fantasy work).

      However I’ve started writing the next book now and I’m still using ‘ileandra’. I think I need to make that transition really early so that I don’t have too hard a time writing the second novel.

      Time to crack out my name-creating notebook, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  6. Hi Ileandra,
    Best post yet. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel as though I know you much better now.
    I have had to change the name of supporting characters, and even that wasn’t easy, but after a while the new name seemed quite natural. Of course, the sooner you can settle on a name the easier it is. I do think it would avoid unnecessary confusion for your readers if your character had a different name. Anything that takes your readers out of the story is not a good thing, and they will constantly be wondering if your character’s story is your story, and what the connection is, etc.
    As always, I wish you great success in your writing. Give your little guys a hug for me.
    Warmly,
    Naomi

    Like

    • Thanks Naomi. In my heart I knew the answer to the question, despite how difficult it is. Hearing others say it too just makes it a little easier to take that final step and make the changes that need to be made.

      I’m glad the post gave an insight; I love sharing my process with you all and I hope that everyone takes something away from it. Even if it’s something small. I don’t have buckets of self pub knowledge, or writing ‘know-how’ but I can tell people what I’m doing, how I feel and what I’ve done (as well as asking for help!).

      By the way… the boys hardly stay still long enough for a hug any more, even though they love them; they’re mad-busy all the time. I’ll sneak one in at nap time for you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      x

      Like

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