Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What’s in a Name? Part I

“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Romeo and Juliet (II.ii.43-44)


In the seemingly never-ending process of cleaning out old files, I came across and old article, with the same title, I wrote for Northwest Christian Author, a publication of the Northwestern Christian Writers Association which appeared in their 2001 November/December issue.

Of course, there my cleaning-out venture came to a halt as I read through it again, after almost 14 years.

I’ve updated the article a great deal and, with your indulgence, I’m sharing it here. Of course I had to find a purple rose!

Shakespeare had it right. But, suppose you’d never seen or heard of a rose, or smelled its heady fragrance, and someone pointed to it a said it was Skunk Cabbage, or Stinkweed. Would you be willing to bury your nose into its petals and discover that intoxicating scent?

Names are important, not only in naming babies , but giving our story characters the right name is extremely important. We have to get the right one to make them believable. And the name must match our characters' basic makeup, behaviors, personalities characteristics, and so forth.

Character naming is a craft by itself. For example, you want to portray an honest person? Frank or Mary Candhor. Clever? Wiley. Courageous? Daniel Lyons. Insightful? Hawkeye Pierce. <Grin>

Choose a name with the right sound. Say it aloud. Many times the way a name strikes the ear will be a better choice than its meaning. Take Bond and Scaramanga. Any doubt as to who’s the bad guy? Next, make sure the name is easy to pronounce out loud. Some readers will just skim over a name like Pryzloskivitch, but others–like me–want to know how to say it. Yes, I’m aware there a many differing opinions on this. That’s just my opinion. And there are exceptions. Ethnic names, for example. You have to be true to your story and setting. In that case, you might want to find a way, perhaps through dialog, to let the reader ‘see’ how it’s pronounced. Then again, if you’re writing War and Peace, or Dr. Zhivago, unpronounceable names come with the character of the story. I’ve read both and I had to take the time to study the gender nomenclature.

As a writer, the task of naming the ‘child’ you have created is far more laborious than it would be for the ‘normal’ parent.

I’ve devoted a lot of time in studying names, their meanings, and am almost obsessive in naming my characters.

Come back next week, Wednesday, for more on this naming game.

Now, I have a question for you–IF you’re a writer . . . how do YOU go about naming YOUR characters? C’mon, join the conversation!

TWEETABLES: [bctt tweet="As a #writer, how do you choose the names of your characters? Join the #conversation, click the link. Looking forward to your answers."]

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