What's in a Name...

Thursday, October 04, 2007
A rose by any other name still smells just as sweet. But if I asked you to go smell my skunks would you want to, even though I had roses in mind?

Names are powerful words. Some Indian tribes believed their names were connected to their inner spirit. One religion believes they are called from the grave into paradise by their secret name. And Lazarus was called forth from the tomb with his name.

In Bible days, parents named their children with care. They were named for character traits, their looks, or for the hopes and dreams of their parents. Even today, parents think long and hard before naming their children. I am named after my mother and my dad’s mother. My son is named after his father and a very dear friend of mine. I’m sure each parent can tell similar stories too. But do we give our character’s names as much thought?

Characters need great names. They need names and nicknames that fit them. They need names that fit the story. For example, a stockbroker working on Wall Street probably wouldn’t be a man named “Bubba.” Kate is less formal than Katherine. Is Katherine a bit haughty perhaps while Kate is down to earth and possibly a tomboy? Is Elizabeth more formal while Lizzy is fun-loving and friendly? Matt brings to mind a different person than Seymour or Stanley.

Names tell us about the character’s family or race too. Jaworski is probably Polish. O’Rourke...possibly Irish. Be sure to remember the stereotypes that come with many names. Does that fit in with your story? Can it be used to make the story better or the character more real? Just like “the boy named Sue,” the names our characters grow up with sometimes determines personality, motives and actions.

Names can also do the unexpected. How many of us would consider Buffy as a vampire slayer’s name? Does Tiffany sound like a police officer or Francis a bull rider? Yet these names will work if you let the reader see the uniqueness of your character. Is Tiffany the police officer taken seriously, does Francis the bull rider get teased?

Character names can be an important part of the story. They deserve special consideration in each and every story, be sure to give it to them.

Here is a nifty name site with names to check out. http://www.behindthename.com/


Long and Short Reviews said...

Naming my characters is always agonizing! Thanks for the link. It's a good one :-)

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