Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

What’s in a name? It’s a good question. When I was young I disliked my name but then I don’t think that’s unusual. I wish I could say that I learned early on that our name doesn’t define us, it’s what’s inside that’s important. Alas, that didn’t come till much later in life.
  I started thinking about names this week when I found myself part way through my current work only to realize that the female character’s name didn’t suit her. She’s a gentle, sensitive character and the name I’d given her didn’t reflect this...at least in my opinion. Interesting, isn’t it, how you and I can hear the same name and yet react so differently.
  How do I name the characters in my books? If a name doesn’t come right away, I often resort to the many lists on the internet. It’s wonderful to be able to go back and see what names were popular in the 1950s. Some sites have names as far back as the 1800s. Run down a list of popular names and you’ll often see names that were in the headlines that year. I wonder how many Kates will be named in the next year or so? It’ll be fun to go back and look in a few years.
  Some of my friends have confessed to scanning my books looking for familiar names. I don’t know about other authors, but I’m not even remotely tempted to use the names of friends or family in my books. After building up an image in my mind of the character, why would I muddy the waters by using the name of someone I know? Not happening.
  So stop looking for your name and get reading. And I hope you enjoy.


  1. Names can affect a reader's first impression of a character, and there are definitely some stereotypes or characteristics associated with names. (Like you wouldn't really imagine Doris to be the head cheerleader in school, while Tiffany goes to study in the library behind her thick glasses every day.)

    It sort of raises an interesting question - do writers select a name based on the character they imagine, or, assuming they choose a name at the onset, is the development of the character at least partially influenced by the type of name chosen? Hmm....

    1. Hi Thea:
      You're right. That is an interesting question. Thing that make you go hmmmm....