The Name of Your Character Says It All
Shakespeare once posed the question, what’s in a name?
The simple answer is identity.
We use names to differentiate one another; we select those names based on meaning.
The importance of a name is constantly reinforced to new parents bombarded with “Have you chosen a name yet?!”
It sounds like such a simple task, but, in actuality, it can be quite difficult. When we were choosing our daughter’s name, for example, we felt as though we were choosing the type of person she’d become and the type of life she’d lead. Diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), something was prohibiting her from reaching her maximum growth potential. (It turned out my placenta was torn.) We knew she’d be tiny. But, we also knew she was a fighter and, thankfully, perfectly healthy.
In the end, we chose Valerie, which means strength and sense of boldness. As a petite woman myself, I know firsthand that sometimes it is hard to be taken seriously between my gender and my size. We wanted to empower her. We wanted her to have a large presence to offset her small stature. We also wanted to encompass the strength she had already exhibited through a high-risk pregnancy. Valerie fit.
When choosing a name for your character, take the time to find something that fits. Yes, it should have a nice ring to it and, of course, it would be fun to name the grumpy character after your dad. But if your dad is named Jack, Jack isn’t really synonymous with grumpy. In fact, Jack is more happy-go-lucky.
As a writer, your characters are your babies. So, I’m actually imploring you to pick up a baby name book. Flip through the names to see which ones strike you and which meanings embody the traits you want your character to possess. Write down your list of favorites and then group them together to see which work. As previously discussed, quirks are subtle descriptors. So are names. Use every opportunity to describe your character to your reader. It’s only when we get to know the characters that we start to care for them and, subsequently, care what happens to them. So write out those names and then write on…