Tuesday, May 11, 2010

WRITING TIP | What’s in a Name?

How important is a name? If it’s any indication, expectant parents pore over possibilities to find the perfect name for their kid. Often the name alludes to something: a family member, a biblical character, or a characteristic. Parents want their kids to remember a specific something or someone when they think of their own name.

If you’re a writer, you might consider your projects as your babies. You birth them. And for some reason, it seems to take me nine months to complete a novel from first draft to final revision.

If you write fiction, how much thought do you give to your character names? It’s not a requirement. But many writers treat it as a tool in their arsenals.

A character’s name can provide a reader with hidden treasure, a revelation about the character. The name can point to a character’s past, its nature, or its self-image.

I found a great example in the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. (Go ahead, yuk it up. I read it to see what the fuss is about. I also discovered, by George, I'm NOT the target audience!) The book follows the journey of Bella Swann, a teenage klutz who prefers her own company and sees herself as rather plain. My best guess: her name reveals who she truly is, the way her love interest sees her. The Italian word bella means beautiful, the opposite of how Bella perceives herself. Unlike Bella—the klutzy loner—a swan (or Swann, in her case) seems both graceful and beautiful. How often do you see a swan swim alone? Perhaps Bella’s last name foreshadows the relationship to come. (Tangent: As I write this, I’m engrossed in a more suitable James Patterson novel!)

I decided to try it out in my novel From The Dead and grew to love the process. For example, the characters Jesse and Eden are preacher’s kids, so it seemed natural for a preacher to give his kids biblical names. Taken one step further, knowing how I wanted to present Eden—the sibling who’s walked the straight and narrow—I named her after the Garden of Eden, a place of perfection.

Also in From The Dead, we discover that Drew’s mother became pregnant at eighteen years old. In the midst of her pressures, a teen mother might think in simple terms and choose a name she always liked: Drew. It allows her to find a glimmer of relief in a tough situation. And Jada—well, it seemed like a solid name for a girl who grew up in front of a TV camera.

Once you find deeper meaning in a character’s name, it tends to stick with you through the course of the story, much like people carry their names through the stories of their lives.

Worth a try?

Hope this helps. Never give up!

johnherricknet.blogspot.com
www.johnherrick.net

2 comments:

  1. Thanks John. Looks like you will provide information on writing here as well?

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  2. Hi Mike. Yes, people ask various questions, so this seemed like a good place to store up answers and ideas. Thanks for reading!

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