Friday, June 25, 2010

What’s in a name

I’d never given much thought to my character’s names. I figured that they would have to deal with whatever name I decided was best for them, I was after all in control of my story, of course we all know that’s not true.

I am a particularly bad namer, I use name such as Billy, Sue, Beth, Samantha, James. Very common names that are used everywhere, unoriginal and even boring sometimes. Usually the names fit the character and that was that. That was until Alyssa, or Alisha, or Alice? This characters name was particularly difficult for me to remember, I didn’t think much of it and decided that she was going to be a minor insignifigant character. Mentioned in the background here and there and probably edited out later. No big deal.

Shortly after resigning this character to their very unimportant status I had a friend mine read some passages of editing that I had done. She jokingly noted that all of my work friends, except her, had a character named after them in my WIP. I decided that, to be nice, I would name a character after her. I didn’t really like the idea of creating a character just for her so I decided to change that oh so unimportant characters name that I couldn’t really remember anyway, to hers, Katie. After all, I least now I didn’t have to worry about remembering that name.

I wasn’t prepared for what came from this simple gesture. Katie came to life on the page. She was still the same character I imagined but much more than I had seen before that. Suddenly she was there in the book, not as a background forgettable character but as a leading role. Her personality, her thoughts, her everything popped out at me clearly. It was as if she were hiding from me offended that I didn’t give her the correct name before. One simple change affected my entire story.

So Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? No, sometimes it’s sweeter.


  1. So true, Sugoi. I actually struggle with the naming thing, not because I didn't care, but becuase I care too much, lol. I want my characters to have the PERFECT name. Great post!

  2. It's true. Names really do change the character. I have been fighting with the main character of my middle grade book for about 3 yrs now. I like the idea of giving her a name of someone I can picture, someone that maybe will make my character more real to me. Good post and welcome to our blog!!

  3. Sugio, I too have a character whose name I have the hardest time remembering. Every time I think of him it takes me a while to remember what I chose as his name. Maybe he needs a name change.

  4. Amber, it sounds like he does! I just throw out whatever name pops into my head first and hope it sticks. Obviously sometimes it doesn't.

  5. Names have always meant a great deal to me when I write. It's good to read your post, I completely agree.

  6. My characters are sooo real to me--I choose names very carefully. Ones that suit their personality well. Ones that give off an image by the name along. Yes, names, like titles to books, are VERY important!

    Thanks for the post, Sugoi! :)

  7. ooh, character names. I feel like there are so many variables - the age/generation of my readers, the setting of my story, my personal likes and dislikes - it boggles my mind if I let it. I had a minor character named Mrs. Wisener, but spellcheck didn't like that and the red underline bugged me enough that I finally changed her name to Mrs. Shaw - which I think is tons better anyway!



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