Wednesday, March 31, 2010
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet....?
Was Shakespeare right? Are names really so unimportant that a writer need not worry about them?
Maybe in Shakepeare's world but not now. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a hot topic for most aspiring writers. Just log on to the Writer's Digest message boards and I'll bet you'll find at least a dozen postings disussing names.
Personally, naming my characaters has always been a spiritual experience--they tend to name themselves.
I know that sounds like a bunch of malarkey but it's true; I've never had to think about my character's first names.
Their last names are a different story though because last names have to represent a lot more of your character than first names do.
For instance, you wouldn't name your main character Jane Smith if her parents were from China but you can get away with Jane Chong because her parents gave her an English name when the family moved to Seattle Washington in 1976.
See what I mean? First names should be the easy part.
I read somewhere that the biggest mistakes writers make when naming their characters is age-appropriateness.
For instance, if your main character is a 60-year-old man you probably don't want to name him Cody or Logan. (Forget age-appropriate, I detest both of these names so I would never read your book)
Another issue to address, especially in dialogue is the use of a character's whole name.
For instance, a lot of parents rarely call their kids by their whole name. If your character's name is Margaret, her Mom (and most of her friends) probably calls her Maggie. Or she may even use a term of endearment like Honey or Sweetie when conversing with her daughter.
My main character's name is Shayna but her Dad never calls her Shayna in the dialogue. He calls her by her nickname.
Shayna's brother's name is Oskar but she calls him Ossy in conversation.
Ok, I don't have to spell this out for you--you know what I mean.
Now, these tips all work in theory and if you're writing Fiction--not Science Fiction/Fantasy. That genre demands a lot more imagination when creating names for most Sc-Fi/Fantasy characters have a very strong connection to their name--they usually mean something.
That's why I stick to Fiction. Writing is hard enough...I don't want to spend hours on end thinking up names for a Half-woman-Half-fairy creature with fire breathing ability.
Now, I'll leave you with some George Carlin--CLASSIC rant about stupid names:
What about you? Do you find it difficult to name your characters?
Posted by The Uneasy Writer at 10:29 PM