Names in Books – How Much Do They Matter?

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  That is a classic of course from the Bard, but how true is it?
“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That is a classic of course from the Bard, but how true is it?

From the name of your protagonist, your evil antagonist, your main and subsidiary characters and minions, your chapter titles (if you use them), right through to the title of your masterpiece – do the actual names matter? They obviously matter to the creator – the author – but do they really matter to the reader, to the general public? In my humble opinion: You bet your life they do!

Names have a certain ring to them, and unless you’re writing something that is deliberately farcical, or really tongue in cheek, like the old James bond movies, with Plenty O’Toole or Pussy Galore, you should use names that don’t immediately snap the reader out of their state of suspended disbelief. Continue reading “Names in Books – How Much Do They Matter?”

What’s in a Name? A Rose is a Rose …

Phone Book photo by Melissa Bowersock phonebk2I’ve just started writing a new book. I’ve had the main idea swimming around in my brain for a month or two, but just in the past couple weeks have I put together some research that is vital to the story, plus some ideas of who the main characters are and what the arc of their story will be. So far I’ve got a couple thousand words down, and within that short period of time, I’ve changed several characters names two or three times.

I love this phase of writing. I love naming my characters. At this point, I will happily, almost giddily, watch the news, a golf tournament, any sports channel with a crawler just so I can peruse the names that flow by. I could very literally sit down and read a phone book for a couple hours and be happy as a clam. For a woman who’s never been pregnant, I have an obscene number of baby name books.

Mahan, Riggs, Spieth, Charleston, Wertzel, Howland, Grogan. I love playing with the names. I test out several for each character, some monosyllabic, some polysyllabic. Why does the number of syllables matter? Let’s play a game. What sounds better? Continue reading “What’s in a Name? A Rose is a Rose …”

Name Droppers

I was talking the other day with E.L. James and Hugh Howey about what a bunch of name-droppers we writers are.

Okay, maybe that part didn’t happen, and I don’t mean name-dropper in the conventional sense. I mean that as writers, we have actually dropped certain names from literature.

When we choose our characters’ names, we use the opportunity to enhance the reader’s mental image of the character. Certain names just don’t seem to do that as well, so we drop them from the lexicon. They may not be totally gone, but to the extent they are used at all, they are given to minor characters. Continue reading “Name Droppers”

What’s in a name, Jar Jar?

This post is more a rumination than anything approaching “advice.” Because really, if anybody knew anything about any aspect of writing that was true in all times and places, I feel like I would have seen it in my facebook newsfeed by now. Different strokes for different folks, we’re all perfect snowflakes, yadda-yadda-yadda. But here are some things I think I know about giving names to those little imps running around our narratives, couched in Star Wars terms in a blatant attempt to hold people’s interest. Continue reading “What’s in a name, Jar Jar?”