What’s In a Name?
By Cait Collins
I disagree with the Bard of Avon. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet may not smell as sweet. What if we called the rose a daisy? Would it smell like a rose or like a daisy? Can a Magnolia smell as sweet as a rose? If I handed you a lilac would you envision a rose?
Names mean something. If I introduced two men in a story as Butch and Allen but did not describe them, could you picture each man in your mind? I see Butch as a big, burly man with a loud voice, and less than perfect manners. He’s not a bad man. He lacks polish. Allen is mild-mannered. He tends to fade into the background. He’s neither handsome nor ugly. He’s just average.
Monique is exotic and beautiful. Delilah would be desirable and devious. Would you name your daughter Jezebel? Or would you choose a name like Elizabeth or Mary. Let’s be honest, a name has positive or negative reactions. We have prejudices against certain names based on experiences, history, literature, and movies.
When we are writing a story, how careful are we in naming our characters? Do you ever get half way through the work and suddenly decide the hero’s name is wrong? Do you make the change or keep the name that doesn’t seem right? If I can’t be comfortable with the name or can’t warm up to it, I’ll change the name. If I am not happy with the character’s name but hold on to it, I risk creating a negative response from the reader.
Names are important. That’s why we spend time researching character names and names of the location. We want our characters to enhance the story; not detract from it.