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 …”

Creating Names for Fantasy

Guest post

by Gordon Long

Okay, in real life I’m terrible with names. I get introduced to someone, and the last thing I remember is his or her name. I like to think it’s not laziness. I know that a person’s name bears no relationship to what that person is really like. It was chosen for them before they were born, and has had a minor influence on the shaping of their personality. “A Boy Named Sue” excepted. All those prejudices that people have about people’s names are just that: prejudices. So when I first meet someone, I am looking to other clues as to his or her personality.

However, when creating names for a story, the situation is completely reversed. If I’m creating a character to meet my readers, suddenly all those prejudices become really important. I want a name that clicks immediately. If I want a he-man character, I want a name that says so. An evocative name is worth more than a thousand words of description. Continue reading “Creating Names for Fantasy”

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”