Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other word would smell as sweet." (Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene ii, lines 43-44)

But is it really true? When in the process of creating a character I know his or her, well, character long before I know his/her name. I know how they act, their strengths and weaknesses, and their history.

For me, naming a hero or heroine can be the toughest part- after all, their names should mean something or nothing. The name has to represent the person to the readers who will meet him/her.

Example: Samantha is the star of Just One of the Guys. According to BehindtheName.com "Samantha" is a common English name that may be the female version of "Samuel." It's not super feminine and it's common, so it isn't particularly flashy. It's a down-to-earth name for a down-to-earth girl. There's also the added plus that it can be shortened to "Sam" which is the name she chooses to go by. Her name allows her to blend with her guy friends, and lends a credibility to her character.

Now, imagine her name is Isobel. Sure, maybe Isobel's a tom-boy, but her name doesn't really fit that fact. So if I were to use that name, I'd have to justify it by turning it into a conflict. She'd be likely to make comments such as: "I hate that name." and "Why did my parents have to be so old-fashioned?" Things like that. Isobel's looks and history would also be different because "Isobel" is obviously foreign (Italian to be exact). Instead of having auburn hair she'd have darker, Mediterranean looks. Her grandparents may be immigrants, so maybe she's fluent in Italian in addition to English.

Maybe if rose bushes were instead called thorn bushes, they'd smell just as sweet, but how many people would stop to smell them? Would you risk getting cut by a thorn bush in order to smell its flowers? I'll admit, I'd avoid a thorn bush like the plague. But a rose bush? Those are known for their beautiful flowers, so maybe I'd actually approach one.

So written by an author currently naming new characters,
Iris Black

Just One of the Guys is now available for Kindle and can also be found in other formats at Quake. For more updates on what's going on in my head, go to my Facebook, my Fan page, or follow me on Twitter (@IrisBlack).


  1. A name really is important to a character! Such a great blog!