What’s In a Name?
In another stint of walking the thin line between being detailed and overthinking, this week, I found myself scrolling endlessly through baby name sites at a mental fork in the road. Though I could attempt to settle my mind with repeating one famed Shakespeare line, it never satisfied me. Not nearly as much as Juliet had to be when she loomed in the balcony and uttered brilliantly “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?” No, after tireless screenwriting work, multiple drafts, and plotline turns, the main character’s name just didn’t feel right.
For background, this character, named Delaney, is too smart for her own good. She defies standards of southern traditions at every turn, questions every decision of her deeply Christian grandmother, and oh, practices witchcraft. I never researched finding her name. I mostly liked the way that it sounded when any member of Bon Appetit was referring to their co-worker, Alex Delaney. Some ideas just stick that in way. But, like looking at any word for too long and it suddenly seems misspelled, the name Delaney started to give me the ick.
So, I went hunting. Looking for names that had definitions that would be ironic when held up against the plot, names that could be compared to Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye to replicate the book’s influence on the script, any name that meant something. After hitting dead end after dead end, I resulted in something more satisfying. Steely Dan. (And if you know the origins of the band’s name, no, not that)
I’ve done it before. Since I believe in sprinkling personal elements into any creative project, I always try to incorporate something that means a lot to me. Having grown up listening to the band and having fond memories of family road trips where we sang along and my sisters and I played imaginary saxophone in the backseat, it only felt right to pay tribute to a group whose art that has been formative in learning my own creative process. In the first pilot that I wrote, one of the main characters, a bold, hyper-sexual social media influencer, was named after Steely Dan’s song “Josie.” In scripts that I have on a mental back burner, I’ve pulled names from Donald Fagen’s (one of the band’s central members) “Tomorrow’s Girls”. So, I combed through the few names that I haven’t exhausted yet. From Aja to Katy, to Ruby… nothing stuck.
Finally, something (maybe it was the Aquarius New Moon, if you know, you know) told me to research the original name. Turns out, Delaney means dark challenger. The ick disappeared. It’s just nice to know that sometimes all it takes is trusting your original instinct.
For a little bonus, here’s one of my favorite songs by Steely Dan that gets me into the writing mood. When I’m not unnecessarily spiraling, of course.