A Rose by Any Other Name J Vincent

“What’s in a name?” Juliet poses in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. What IS in a name?!

Does it make a difference? Is Han Solo truly better than Harold Sole? Did George Lucas intimate anything about Han when he used “solo” as his name? Of course there is Chewy so perhaps not but I still think the thought has merit. But back to my topic.

Do you, as a writer, give more than cursory thought to your characters names? This is not a minor part of writing. Think of how many characters appear in any one book. Seldom are there only two or four and there can be dozens. Each has to have a moniker.

I clip head shots from newspapers, magazines, any source I find them. When I begin a book I choose pictures for my major characters. Sometimes a name comes to mind on the instant of visualizing a character. That is rare for me so I have resources I turn to when confronted with a nameless character. Since the name's meaning is as important as the sound of it, to the right of the my computer I have The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook and on my shelves: Secret Universe of Names, Names Through the Ages, Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Name Your Baby, Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames with a Voc. of Christian Surnames, 20,001 Names for Baby

There are also some very interesting web sites involving names.

Behind the Name The Etymology and History of First Names (English, French, Spanish, Irish, Biblical, Mythological and more)
Behind the Name The Etymology and History of Surnames (English, French, Spanish, Irish, Biblical, Mythological and more)

The Etymology of First Names

Meaning of Names Look on left side for link to Boys names, girls names even dogs names and surnames

What matters to you in or about a character’s name? What resources do you use in choosing a name? How do you name them?


Reese Mobley said...

I can't write much about a character until he or she is named. It's usually the first thing I do when starting to write something new. Thanks for these great tips.

Roxann Delaney said...

I've had to change character names a few times for various reasons. I remember how it took forever to find a new name for the heroine in my second book. She was a small, young woman who was a barrel racer, and her nickname was Tiny, but the editors didn't like it. I tried everything and finally came up with Ellie. "Bliss" and "Harmony" got a thumbs down for two sister heroines who eventually became Kate and Trish.

For some characters, I use Social Security Admin Baby Names to find names appropriate for a specific age or time period. It's fun just to visit to see what names were popular in what years.

Joan Vincent said...

Reese, I too can't write about "Character A." A name almost always makes it easier for me to flesh them out.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox, Glad I never had the problem of coming up with different names for characters. How did you come seque from Bliss and Harmony to Kate and Trish?
Thanks for the SS name link--with the year link it is especially useful.

Pat Davids said...

I have trouble with names, too. I have to have a strong sounding name for my hero. Nick, Mick, Damon, Adrian, Gideon, Elam. My heroines are often named after my co-workers at the hospital. Lindsey had long red hair, Mandy was the hot, blonde sheriff, named after a bubbly nurse who wouldn't arrest a flea. Wilhelmina is my most unusual heroine name to date. To her displeasure, the hero insists on calling her Mina.
Names are fun. Trying to match a character with a name can be even more fun.

Starla Kaye said...

Names are hugely important in my opinion. They define a character. They make certain physical images come to mind. I can't get started on a story until I have the character names, at least the main characters. Side characters develop as they get pulled into the story.