Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Name is a Name is a Name

Last week I read an article on CNN by Stephanie Chen titled Does Your Name Shape Your Destiny?

Go check it out - it's short. And it has a photo. Go ahead, I'll wait.

"Gin!" Oh, you're back already? You read quicker than I do.

Think about this article when you name your characters. Their names shape their destinies, too.

Think what you could do with these characters:
A mixed martial arts fighter named Miles Osbourne.
A stripper named Emily Greene.
A physicist named Billy Joe Hatfield.

When the name don't fit the character's occupation, it opens up a whole new side of the character for you to layer in all kinds of good stuff.

Now think about these characters. How do you envision them?
Liliana Fontaine
Florence Bartlett
Quinn O'Neill

What's in a name?

Could be quite a lot.

24 comments:

arlee bird said...

I like to try to give my characters stand out names that somehow relate to who they are without being ridicuously obvious about it. For example, one of the characters in my book is a mob boss named Victor -- the name gives him an air of importance and strength, but also a sort of incongruity in light of his occupation.

I like the names you've given as examples.
Florence Bartlett - the first thing that came to my mind was a sort of nanny or au pair. Probably an association with Florence Nightengale and Bartlett pears. Okay, my mind makes weird associations sometimes.

Liliana Fontaine -- definitely an opera singer.

Quinn O'Neill --- A literary type, a writer perhaps, who is very sensitive.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Joanne said...

A name is almost like a book cover, inviting questions and interest by its mere suggestion of what's behind it.

Terry Odell said...

I love any plug, inadvertent or not, for my book, "What's in a Name?"

I don't think I have the 'right' name--everyone has trouble remembering it.

Mason Canyon said...

I love it when a character's name makes you think they might be one way and they turn out to be so completely different.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Carol Kilgore said...

Arlee - I hope some others respond with how they see those names. If they do, we'll compare notes. Or I'll post my thoughts later.

Joanne - I agree. Sometimes I read a book and wonder what in the world the author was thinking with a certain name.

Terry - Of course it was planned (cough, cough). I like your name. Mine, meh.

Mason - Me, too!

Jayne said...

Liliana is old, in her eighties, and she used to be A Someone. She smells like faded powder, and still has flowers in her hair.

Florence... I cannot do, as my main character is called Florence. :)

Quinn is in his forties, a sharp lawyer with an interesting, quizzical face. He plays sax when he is not in court.

Loved doing these! Thank you. :)

Helen Ginger said...

I'm reading a book right now where the protagonist is named Quinn. I would probably associate a Quinn with this particular character, even though I would not have thought of this character as a Quinn before I started reading it. Some names just bring up images and you have to consider that before using them, I think - names like Florence automatically make me think Nightingale.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Aubrie said...

What a great article! I just emailed a link to my sister who's trying to think of a name for her baby due in September. Thanks so much for posting :)

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I LOVE naming characters! Why not give the unexpected? No one knows when they name their child what that baby will grow up to be...

VR Barkowski said...

Name your characters anything you darn well please, it's only 300 pages. But be kind to your children. They're stuck with whatever name you give them for a lifetime (or until they petition the court).

Carol Kilgore said...

Jayne - Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these names. I'll post something tomorrow about what I think.

Helen - I agree that some of us have built-in images for some names.

Aubrie - You're welcome.

Elspeth - I try to give mine names I can work with ... but they often have their own ideas and the name ends up being opposite of who they are. I think they do it to me on purpose :)

Carol Kilgore said...

VR - I understand. I've read your post about your name. I know a woman who is equally upset about hers. If she goes to a restaurant and they ask for her name to call her for seating, she tells them it's Mary.

Talli Roland said...

Great post, Carol. I try sometimes to choose unusual names so my readers remember them, but also names that have some connection to the character's personality. I love naming characters!

Southpaw said...

Liliana Fontaine – prima ballerina
Florence Bartlett – aging medical scientist
Quinn O'Neill - archeologist on a dig in the desert

Carol Kilgore said...

Talli - I've had to change a character's name before - once I did, she shaped right up.

Southpaw - I love how everyone is perceiving these names.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Liliana Fontaine: an arthritic gardener
Florence Bartlett: A crotchety bartender
Quinn O'Neill: A strong-willed young female pilot.

What fun!
Naming characters is so important and creates strong images in readers' minds.

cassandrajade said...

I think names are incredibly important to characters and to people in real life. You may not choose your name but you do choose how you wear it.

Thanks for sharing this post.

Carol Kilgore said...

Kathy - Very cool.

Cassandra - "...you do choose how you wear it." Excellent.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I actually did read the article and bookmarked the name sites it mentioned. Thanks. I do think it’s important that the name fits the character. I enjoy coming up with the names of my characters.

Carol Kilgore said...

I enjoy it, too. But sometimes I want to scream when I think I have the perfect name and discover it won't work. For one reason or another.

Glynis said...

Excellent point! I'm just starting a story that took me 3 days to pick the name of the two MCs. I wanted the names to kind of define them and yet leave room for quirks.

kimberlyloomis said...

Good things to ponder! And thanks for that interesting article, Carol!

Carol Kilgore said...

Glynis - Sometimes it takes me a while to find the right name. Sometimes the name comes to me and I build a character around it.

Kimberly - You're welcome.

Carol Kilgore said...

I wanted to post my own comments about the names I threw out for you.

Liliana Fontaine
We have an opera singer, a Someone who smells like face powder, and an arthritic gardener. Put those together for a great supporting character.

Florence Bartlett
Florence Nightingale came to mind for you, so some kind of healthcare worker. I know a woman named Florence, so my own thoughts didn't run in that direction.

Quinn O'Neill
I loved that someone thought of HER as a strong-willed pilot. I pegged HIM as the owner of an Irish bar.