Behind the Name

  To me, starting a new writing project is always exciting.  You have a fresh idea and a mind full of hope.  It's like an uncharted wilderness just waiting to be explored.  The characters are like the natives, curious strangers who you encounter and bond with along the adventure. 
At the beginning of any fiction project, one of the first orders of business would be to name your main characters.  Next to titling the project, naming characters is the most enjoyable part of writing to me.    After you figure out what their personality is vaguely like and what their role is in the story, you have to call them something.  Character #1 ain't going to cut it. This name is going to be the face of the character to the reader.  So this name should reflect who they are.  Finding this name is fun.  My greatest sources are baby name websites and books.  After plowing through dozens of names (some of which I never knew existed like Achava), I find the name that fits the character like the glass slipper on Cinderella.  Mentioning Cinderella, I'll use her as an example of a well named character:

Cinderella means "little ashes"- In Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm, Cinderella is abused by her evil step mother and step sisters.  Her nice clothes were taken away and she was treated like a slave.  She always looked dusty and dirty from sleeping in the ashes, for she had no bed. 

Lennie means "lion strength"- In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men Lennie is a migrant worker who has a sort of mental disability, so he relies on his traveling companion to do the thinking.  While his companion is the brain, Lennie is the brawn.  Due to his mental disability he doesn't really understand his own strength though.

Clarisse means "clear, bright" - In Ray Bradbury's  Fahrenheit 451 Clarisse McClellan is a young girl who is different from the society around her and thinks for herself which starts the main character of the story to think for himself.   

What is the naming process like for you and is there a famous character's name whose meaning you find witty? I'd love to hear about it.

1 comment:

nothingprofound said...

Practically every Dicken's character has a whimsical name. I think Pecksniff is my favorite. Then, of course, there's Bottom from "Midsummer Night's Dream.