Friday, 17 August 2012

What's in a Name?

At a recent writing meeting a discussion started up about characters names and the influence if any they have on a story. It got me thinking on how important the right name is. Think back to when, if you have children and it was time to choose their name. When a name is suggested one automatically associates it with either someone they know with the same name or a place etc. Well at least it does with me.
Naming my characters is not a job I take lightly nor should you. A handy way of testing if you have a suitable name is to say it out loud. Can you conjure up a picture of that person? Does it match what you had in mind for your character? Sometimes it will be okay, with others it may be way off. At times when I’m not paying much attention to what I’m doing, a character tells me its own name and that’s great as it makes my story easier.
Personally I feel a male character is more difficult to give a name to than a female one. For a female baddie, I just think back to my young days and remember all the girls I didn’t like and hey presto, I have a baddie. But with the guys, well, I just loved all the guys I knew!! Try it and see if it works for you.
Another idea for you to consider is buying a baby book of names and their meaning. Then if you need to get an idea for the type of male/female character you have, the name will give you a clue. For example, my name Mary is Hebrew. Of course the most well known Mary is the Blessed Virgin and in some cultures it is considered too holy to be used. It is often said it means ‘sea of bitterness’, ‘rebelliousness’ and ‘wished for child’. I hope it was the latter that my parents were thinking of when they named me! After all there isn’t a bitter bone in my body, though rebelliousness definitely lodges within me.
 Thinking about this topic, I wondered about my children’s names and why I named them what I did. I’m happy with my choices, and so are they, I did ask them honestly!! A name is a badge of identity and it is the first gift parents give to their child so put time into it and think and choose wisely. Pity the celebrities of this world didn’t check with me before they named their darlings, after all, Apple, Blue, and Peaches would remain fruits and colours like they were meant to be. See, not a bone of bitterness in me!


  1. Good one Mary. My fav has always been obituaries. You come across some really good ones there too. I usually get a picture in my mind of the character then the name pops into my head. When I say it aloud I know if it's a fit or not. Then the journey begins...........I would have to agree with Peaches etc. :)

  2. Thanks Mari, there are some really weird names out there and I must say the obituaries list is an interesting read

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