Significance of the Right Name

My novel now has a name! Instead of a gender reveal, this post will be a name reveal.

Choosing just the right name is important. When my parents named me, they didn’t want me to be confused with anyone else so they invented a new name. I’ve never been able to look up the meaning of Taryn in baby name lists, or find my name on magnets in gas station racks. Yet I love my name. It is mine. And I know what Taryn means. It means Unique.

Naming characters is an important task for authors. Think Ebenezer Scrooge, Atticus Finch, Huckleberry Finn. We know instantly who they are. Their names are distinctive. They capture their personalities.

For my novel, I chose Romanian names that Americans can pronounce easily because I don’t like stumbling on foreign names when I read. From the beginning, I knew that my protagonist would be named Adriana. No question. I pictured her in my mind: a petite gymnast-looking teenager with brown hair, but lighter brown than the average Romanian.

Much later, I realized I had sub-consciously given my character the same name and the same physical features as an exuberant tween girl I met in 1990. The real Adriana came bounding up to me at church one day in Bucharest and asked if she could translate for me. From that moment on, Adriana and I were velcroed together. It turned out she didn’t know many English words, but she could identify emotions just fine: he speak now, she cry now, we leave now. This girl, who I haven’t seen in 25 years, has a permanent spot in my heart. My friends and I gave special names to people we loved at that time. I think of her as She Cry Now. That’s why it took so long for it to register that she is Adriana.

Sometimes authors invent towns or countries and have to assign them names. I invented a mountain village in my novel. I named it Armonia in honor of my childhood town that has always exuded peace to me: Harmony, Maryland.

And then there are titles. Writers must come up with a working title but the final name is entrusted to the publisher, the one who foots the bill and knows something about marketing. And so, without further ado, the title is . . .

One Degree of Freedom was my original title, way back when I finished the first draft (many versions ago). So I am happy! In the novel, Adriana is an engineering student and degree of freedom is an engineering term–with a double meaning. For those of you who weighed in on social media, the majority of you chose the winning name. Yay! Confirmation.

The second-place winner was Adriana and the Secret Room. By the time I’d started sending out queries, I’d changed the title to Adriana and the Secret Room: my attempt to channel Harry Potter and entice YA (young adult) readers. I feared that the title sounded Nancy Drew-ish and I wanted older adults to want to read it, too.

If you preferred Adriana and the Secret Room, there is some good news here. This novel is the first in a series I had been calling The Cold War Chronicles. Sounds kind of stuffy history professor-ish, doesn’t it? Now I’ve renamed the series Adriana and the Cold War. So Adriana wormed her way back into the title after all.

While working on the three novels, I’ve always referred to them in my head as #1, #2, and #3. Now that the first one is named One Degree, I’ve tentatively renamed the sequels with numbers in their titles: Two Stars at Night and Three Colors Strong.

We are in the final countdown until the release date of November 17. The next step in the publication process is the cover design. Fingers crossed!

The real Adriana and me in 1990

2 thoughts on “Significance of the Right Name

  1. Wendy L Kohman

    The photo of you and Adriana brings a flood of memories and joy! I hope you will be able to reconnect someday through your book, and maybe even take an updated photo in front of Popa Rusu! Counting down with you until the 20th….er…the 19th!

    1. Taryn Hutchison Post author

      Thanks, Wendy! I would love to find the real Adriana someday. I don’t even know her last name. It’s funny, but it really was a totally subconscious decision when I gave my character Adriana’s name and her physical attributes. She made such an impression on me.


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