What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Now, most of us know the Romeo and Juliet tragic tale and it’s sweet that she loves him for him and not because of the name or rather she doesn’t hate him because of his name.  But, this begs the question: how important is a name?

I had a writing prompt before based on names because I figured names are important, they give life to the characters.  You can outline their personalities, give them backgrounds, have physical descriptions, but once you give them a name they seem more real.  Instead of calling him guy number one, I can call him Will, or Nick, or Michael, or Ashton.

Giving the characters names gives them life basically.

But, to what extent should a name reflect the personality or should it be relevant to the plot?

Think about it.

Women named Faith, Hope, or Charity, are they necessarily faithful, hopeful, or charitable?  No.  A lot of people who have optimistic, “innocent” names don’t live up to them and people who have names that might have negative connotations can be pretty darn amiable.

This is going to seem like a rant, but I’m honestly tired of names that give away the character’s purpose or lot in life.  Hmm…this seems similar to Savannah Foley’s (from Let the Words Flow) post on “Your Heroine Does Not Need Violet Eyes”.

If your character is a vampire, please don’t name them “LeStrange” or “Fangsworth”.  Name him Bob or something and let me discover his vampirism or name him Sinclair.  It has a devious ring without divulging his living-dead secret.

If he’s a werewolf, please don’t name him “Woolf”, “Wulf”, “Wolf” or any other variation.  Put some thought into your name.  Name him (or her) Jack (or Carly).

If she’s a princess from Russia on the run, for the love of God, don’t name her “Anastasia”.

This entire post was prompted when I was reading Beth Fantaskey’s Jessica’s Guide to Dating the Darkside and thought popped into my head.  It started out pretty well.  The protagonist, Jessica, has a mysterious past and one day on her way to school, a dark, brooding guys shows up and he’s calling her a name from “her old life”.  It makes you wonder about “her old life”; why did she run? Who is this guy? Who is Jessica?

BUT!  Then, I find out she’s from Russia, her name is originally Anastasia, and she’s destined to be a princess.  Come on, really?  Sometimes I think authors don’t put any effort into names.

There are tons of other examples, but I won’t go on only because this will end up being a 20 pages post.

My point is: in the naming of characters, while names are important and can reflect the character’s personality or give them something to live up to, unless the point of your story is to show the character’s struggle with his or her name, don’t give them glaringly obvious names that take away the surprise.

PS

By the way, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation has been removed from my “Currently Reading” list.  Maybe (assuming there’s no homework) I’ll finish it over Spring Break.  Now, I’ve added Neal Shusterman’s Unwind: In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them

Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

11 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Hmmm very interesting. I, on the other hand, am one of those odd writers who don’t give too much thought in names. I don’t know how Lucas came about with his name. I just chose it–and it stuck. I don’t know why I chose Amanda. All I know is that I was searching for a simple name.

    But to my surprise my friend who studies latin told me that Amanda meant–worthy of love. Which is amazing because it ties in with the theme of my novel haha

    Great post!!!!!

    • Same here. I chose Will …just because…there wasn’t a reason behind his name OR Sophia’s..the title just happened to work out that way after the fact.

      But, at least you didn’t name him, Lucas, Lord Brooding or something. If you did..then this article would be for you, but you didn’t! So it’s not 🙂

      It’s always a friend, isn’t it? After I chose Sophia a friend told me it meant “Wisdom”.

      Thanks!

  2. Wow, you read my mind. I was going to write a blog later this week about naming characters, but you got there before me. Anyways, I think names are extremely important to how a reader views your character. For example, Lucien became Lucien after a whole lot of meditation. I wanted a character who had all the good qualities of Lucifer: majestic, angelic, and a little bit arrogant. However, I didn’t want him to become the cliche “dark and devilish duke.” No, my Lucien, had to be a blond and cheerful and he needed a name to suit his personality. So I chose Lucien, from Lucius, meaning light.

    But my point is most people tend to forget the importance of a name, and go for the more popular names such as like you mentioned, “Wolf” or “Anastasia.” Not that those names are bad, but they tend to place the character in a group with all the other characters with the same name, and they never get a chance to stand out.

    So, after this long speech, which you probably fell asleep during, I’d like to say: WRITERS, DON”T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE NAME or the name-gods will punish you!

    -Rika (aka The Author Goddess)

    P.S: I just started reading Beth Fantaskey’s Jessica’s Guide to Dating the Darkside and now hope the name was the only cliche in the book.

    • haha, actually I was supposed to post this since last week, but got side tracked.

      See, you chose “Lucien” for a reason and other factors of the book support it. “Wolf” or “Anastasia” are fine…but I was just bothered by the whole…Russian-Princess-from-Russia-on-the-Run cliche.

      lol, name gods 🙂 I hope they’re nice to me because so far I’ve been stressing over their names and..I’ve been successful so far ^_^

      Otherwise…JGDD was good…and I liked the fact that she posted the “sequel” on her website as an extra instead of publishing it.

  3. This, my darling, is a great post! ❤ it!

    I completely agree, giving the character a name is giving them a life of their own. =)

    Btw… Yes, I read VA– Why?
    And I ended up with two, cause I won the other right after I bought it. heehee =)

    • ^_^ Thanks. It definitely does, so much better than Guy 1 and Girl 2.

      I was just asking because isn’t the next one coming out soon??

      Oh, don’t you hate when that happens?

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