The Name Game

Husband told me a couple of weeks ago that he did NOT like one of my character’s names. (Not the names of one of the characters I wrote about in my previous post. Haruka and Sakura are extremely common and modern names in Japan. A different name that I am not revealing here.)

I don’t why it took him so long to tell me that. This book has been a work in progress for over three years.  But anyway we argued discussed it. I decided to ask my Japanese teachers their opinion. They agree with him. I asked my son his opinion. He agreed with him. I asked the crow who gets into my garbage. Her name is Berthe Erica Crow and she didn’t have an opinion.

What threw me off with this name is that I once knew a real-life Japanese baby girl who had this name. The mom was Japanese and the dad American. So I assumed it was an actual Japanese name. But it’s not.

The name has a lovely sound in English. And I like the meaning in Japanese. It’s just that, to Japanese ears, it evidently sounds strange as an actual name.

So for the past couple weeks, I have been thinking, and asking questions of people, and researching.  I’ve gotten a  particular suggestion for a new improved name, the same suggestion from two different Japanese people.  But then I was at the library on Sunday and discovered a gorgeous picture book with this particular improved name.

Such a beautiful and creepy book. LOVE IT!

But…I asked the librarians the meaning of the name here in the picture book’s title. The name has the double meaning of “Child Stealer.”  (The picture book is about a yokai, a Japanese ghost, who steals children.)  So I complained to my husband and he said, “Nobody will think of that meaning!”  But my book is all about word play and I just can’t name my lovely non-child-stealing character a name that is a homophone for Child Stealer!!!!  I just can’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!


So I was thinking of other names. I researched on the internet and came up with three names. (Actually one of these is the name of my husband’s now deceased cat. It’s a wonderful name with a beautiful sound to American ears and Japanese ears, and a lovely meaning.)

Then I called my writing assistant who knows nothing about Japan. My mom. She doesn’t know what a mochi is, what an emoji is, what manga is. She pronounces kimono like “kimona.” She’s the perfect assistant.

I gave her the choice of the three names and she chose the cat’s name.  (My husband is okay with me using his cat’s name.)

So this means I will have to change my character’s name.  It hurts but I have to do it.  I don’t want anybody in my book walking around with a sucky name.

After all, last week, popular YA author Rainbow Rowell wrote on her twitter feed: “I find it harder to name characters now that I know how I have to live with those names for years….” (For what it’s worth, I still love my real life son’s name, and he says he likes it, too.)

Tomorrow and Friday I have Japanese classes, so I will ask my teachers their opinions. They are the experts.


About kireikireikireiI am a mom.

2 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. I once knew a sweet lovely very intelligent Japanese friend whose Japanese name was Yuri. But she changed it (not legally) to Anne. When with American friends. Her mother and husband and older friends continued to call her Yuri. I liked Yuri as a name and the way it sounded compared to Ann. She died several years ago.

    God be with you,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s