Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's In a Name?

by June Shaw

Okay, I did not originally come up with that question. Someone you know much better created it and numerous other quotes we enjoy. I believe Shakespeare's question is relevant today just like many of the situations he created.

But really, what is it about names? Shakespeare used Montague and Capulet to deepen his question and point out the fury between both families. Considering a few of the names he used throughout his plays makes me know the Bard spent quite a bit of time selecting those he selected.

Should we writers today do less?

Titles that were almost given to famous films tell us much thought was given to producing those that stuck in our thoughts. The same thing happens with well-known characters in novels. How could Rhett Butler be called anything else? Okay, without naming the famous protagonist, hasn't Tara also become a character?

Most of us who write books and stories know the names we give our main characters should not begin with the same letter or be the same length. We want to give much thought to whether we are creating a Daisy or a Scarlett. Obituaries often show us popular names of the elderly that we seldom use for young people today.

What type name do you like to read about or use for characters in stories? For those of you who are authors, how do you decide what's in the name of the people you create?


Bill Kirton said...

I agree, June. I sometimes agonize over names and sometimes find I have to change one I've chosen after a few pages because it doesn't fit. Your post, though, reminds me of a funny (well I thought i was) thing that happened during a tutorial I gave once when I was a French lecturer at university. We were talking about the importance of names in Flaubert and I pointed out that Emma Bovary's husband's name suited him well because he was such a bovine character, whereupon one of the students said 'Oh no'. I asked her what was the matter and she said, 'I've just got engaged to a man called Cowie'.

June Shaw said...

Funny story. Why do you know French so well, Bill? I live in south Louisiana, where my mom and her family knew French well but not my dad -- and I have my dad's name. I never learned any of the language except for a few words.

Bill Kirton said...

My degree and Ph.D. are in French literature, June. I taught in a school for 3 years, then at Aberdeen university. I've also spent quite a lot of time in France, including living there for a year as a student and another when my wife (also an ex French teacher) did an exchange. On our one visit to New Orleans, we found the French spoken a bit difficult because it's taken on its own pronunciation and vocabulary. The same applies, although to a lesser degree, in Canada. Being a Francophile also helps.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Names are important, June. I usually use common names for my protagonists and secondary characters, but carefully search the People Finder site before I name my villains to make sure no one has that name or it's so common that thousands of people have that moniker. Names also denote strength and weaknesses. I once saw a political sign for attorney general with the candidate's name, "Sissie," and I wondered if anyone except her friends would vote for her.