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8.2.11

What's in a Name?




Yes, this is an overused Shakespearean quote, but I like it. According to Juliet, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And yes, I certainly do realise that the picture is NOT of a rose. That would be redundant However, would Juliet really have fallen for a guy name, say, Howard, rather than Romeo? (Not that there's anything wrong with the name Howard. In fact, I rather like it!) As you may have guessed, one part of writing that I struggle with is naming my characters. Hell, I struggle more with naming fictional characters than I did naming my children! (My oldest is Michael after the archangel. The youngest is Nicholas named by his brother in honour of his favourite saint.)

For some reason, I have a harder time naming the men than the women. My first book, Conquest of a Fairy, is set in Ireland, so naturally I needed a strong Irish name. Patrick? Too overused. Seamus? No, not for the hero. What's a writer to do? Research. An Irish name which denoted strength, wasn't too common but wasn't so obscure that no one would recognize it. Angus! I like it. Okay, so technically it's Scottish, not Irish, but it means strength. And the lead guitarist in AC/DC was named Angus.

Since that first book, I've had two published with total-e-bound - Tasting Pleasure and What's Your Pleasure. Both were a joy to write and the heros - Maverick Devonshire and Vincent Milo - both dashing, handsome and full of integrity - more or less chose their own names. I'm not sure how, but as I began thinking about the storyline, these two names just popped in my head and demanded to be written down.

Now, I'm working on a third book the series, but since NO ONE, certainly not one of the esteemed editors here have seen it, I'd be premature to speak too much of it. Nonetheless, I digress. This hero was actually a character in What's Your Pleasure? - Vincent's best friend, Nathan. Now for some reason, I again struggled with naming this friend. The character is a confidant, bouncer, highly intelligent, moral and perceptive. I have an on-line facebook friend named Nassib. He also embodies these characteristics, but his name didn't sound very American and since the story takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, I needed an Americanized name. Hence, Nathan. But meaning is also important, so I looked up what Nathan meant - it's actually of Hebrew descent and means "He gave." And what does a friend do? He gives. Perfect.

Sometimes, what's in a name really does matter.

2 comments:

widdershins said...

Everything about our environment, past and present, influences how we respond to the look of a name on the printed page, be it hard copy or digital. Think Martha ... Stewart or old fashioned? Iggy ... Pop or nick-name for Michael Ignateff - leader of one of Canada's opposition parties.

I write SF and the names of my characters MUST be cognizant and congruent to the world I've created.

... so, I agree there's a great deal in a name.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Very often my characters name themselves. I ask them what they're called, and they tell me.

Often, though, they don't tell me their last names. I've had several releases lately where I had to make up last names after the fact because I needed them for my blurb!