What’s In a Name

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I wonder if when William Shakespeare wrote his now infamous quote- “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet- Act II, Scene II), he knew how profound a thought he was creating?

So what is in a name?

One part of my writing process I enjoy the most is creating, for my stories, titles, character names, location names, anything with a designation or appellation.

Sometimes names just come to me as I begin to develop a character, as if they are telling me themselves who they want to be. I then use that name to craft dimensions for the character I had not yet planned. For example, when I began to create the main character for the novel I am currently working on,

Lost and Found: The Souls of Rosewood, I knew it would be a girl around the age of 13-14. I knew she would be smart, independent and mature for her age. I knew she would be a gutsy problem-solver who had strong family ties and loved animals especially horses. But I didn’t know yet what she looked like or what her family background would be. Then one morning I woke up with her name on my lips- Lucy…Lucy Reardon. That was it…now a face filled the creative spot in my brain – red hair, light trace of freckles across the bridge of her nose, blue eyes with green flakes, fair complexion. Now I began to know who her family was, what they looked like and what cultural qualities they may have, i.e. traditions, customs etc.

Other times I take great pains to create names, names that not only fit my character’s personality but are authentic to their time in history, family background and station in life. I work hard at making sure the names and titles I create are not only memorable but serve a purpose as well.

My favorite stories are those which are character driven. Unforgettable characters deserve unforgettable names… Call me Ishmael, Ichabod Crane, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, Sam Spade, Holden Caulfield, The Grinch to name a few.

What are your favorite character names?

How do your characters get their names?

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2 responses »

  1. I’m working on my first novel based on family events. Naming my characters isn’t a problem as they exist. I have changed the names to not offend anyone. I find that my main characters are leading me to change their physical and sometimes emotional traits. The best for me is to read a storty without too much character description and let my reader’s mind see that character from the written word. If I “know” the character, the story becomes that much more interesting – no bells or whistles needed.
    In Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell based Rhett on her first husband. The name was appropriately given due to the southern background. However, when it came time to cast the movie everyone thought she had written the character based on Clark Gable’s physical appearance and personality. Wrong. The book was written before Clark appeared on the Hollywood scene. If the character is real, the name fits.
    Marie C.

    • Thank you for visiting Marie.
      I love the sentence where you said “I find that my main characters are leading me to change theirphysical and sometimes emotional traits.” People ask me all the time how I know what is going to happen next in my story. I always tell them that the characters tell me, and they do. That’s when things get really exciting.

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