What’s in a Name? – Picking Character Names

We have a furry addition to our family – a female black cat that we adopted yesterday from the local animal shelter. We’ve had a bad run with pets over the last few years but, ever hopeful, we’re giving cat ownership another go. Which leads us todays post, because of course our new furry friend needs a name.

In this case we decided on Blackie. I know it doesn’t win awards for originality. Thank goodness animals are the only ones to get names based on their appearance, other wise both my boys would be named Scrawny Pink Thing.

Names are a funny thing. When I was teaching I came to associate a certain type of kid with their name, thus I’ve never met a Lewis who wasn’t lovely while I have a weird aversion to boys with J names (thank you, all you Jakes, Jordans, Jacksons and Joshs). Of course some of the ‘J’ brigade were lovely, but it’s the little…well, you know, that stand out.

As far as characters go, I struggle to name them. My protagonist in Child of War is Jedda, a name that I hoped was strong and not too main stream – but not too out there. It’s a j-name obviously but he and I get along pretty well.

And while they may seem superficial, the names characters have help to form a picture in our mind, they both draw on and add to our previous experience to create meaning. After all, would we picture Shakespeare’s Juliet the same if she were called Ursula? Romeo and Ursula? Or would we now imagine all girls called Ursula differently? I knew a couple who named their new baby daughter Ursula – my immediate mental image was not flattering.

If you were being set up on a blind date with a man called Homer, would you picture a distinguished Greek poet or a jaundiced over-weight family man?

Do you have any favourite character names? How important are names to you?

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? – Picking Character Names

  1. theeditorsjournal says:

    I think if it were Romeo and Ursula from the get go we would have accepted it. Homer, you’re right, jaundiced fatty…however, if there was a new 6ft 2 male adonis model / actor hottie who came on the scene called Homer our perceptions of the name would shift.
    I have had this problem too when naming things in the past. Folks bring their perceptions and prejudices to MY party trying to sway me into a name change, but I stick to my guns because if a character or pet or brand or whatever is successful suddenly it becomes right.

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