Friday, March 16, 2012

What's In A Name?

...that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. Hopefully you all know that one. Little guy named Bill Shakespeare?

So really what is in a name, do names really matter in writing? I would imagine they do seeing as how many of them become iconic. Harry Potter is simply a name, but isn’t it so much more than that? If the little wizard boy had been named Jim Smith it might have had some trouble catching on. Jim Smith and the Chamber of Secrets sounds more like spy thriller than a children’s fantasy.

Names stand out to me and they always have. It’s the first thing that is truly ours when we are born. It’s the thing that’s with us our entire lives.  For years I’ve been making lists of names either for my hypothetical children or my fictional children, aka my characters. I personally can’t properly write if I don’t have my names all ready to go. Even minor character’s names keep me up at night if they aren’t just right.

I care about my characters and I feel that by giving them meaningful names they might have a better chance at connecting. Name meanings are a big part of my process. In high school I bought a big hardback purple book called The Character Naming Sourcebook. It’s essentially my Bible and the very first place I go before writing a single word of a story.

If I’m writing about a dark and mysterious girl there’s no way I would name her Lucy (meaning ‘light’). If I have a villainous character they won’t get a name that has any time of kind meaning attached to it.

It could be that names don’t really matter to readers but I think that names matter to the world. Hopefully hiding in my mind somewhere there is a Harry Potter, a Holden Caulfield, a Carrie or an Atticus Finch just waiting to be written.

If you need helping naming your characters or if you’re curious about the names of some of your favorite characters from books check out

Fun fact about the soon to be released novel, The Low Notes : The name of my male lead character Kevin means ‘handsome’ and 'kind' and the female lead Nina’s name means ‘young girl’.

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