What’s in a name?

Happy Monday to you!! And a horrible, grey, miserable and wet one it is too! Ah well, never mind, it is Bank Holiday coming up here in England this weekend, so it absolutely HAS to rain! 😉

So, my question today is this: How important are character names in a novel?

Every time I introduce a new character, I either immediately know what they are called, or have to spend hours trawling the net for something suitable and then (usually) discounting it for a variety of reasons. But, how important is it to the reader?

Do you have to love the name of the main character to empathise with them? Does it have to be something unique or suited to the part they are to play? What if they remind you of someone you don’t like?? Obviously, an author cannot possibly know that, but personally, I have to LIKE the name of the characters that I create or when writing, it kinda grates…..

As ever, any comments would be appreciated.
Saffy. xx

Writer, dreamer, pantser.

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4 comments on “What’s in a name?
  1. I am surprised no one else has commented…well, I’ll be the first to jump in! I think names are not at all important, meaning your choice and characterization will define the name not the name itself. Does that make sense? Example: Sookie. Probably a nearly extinct name in the South until recently, now it is becoming the highest rising baby girl name. I find that unusual names (not outrageous like oranjello or something else crazy), but unique names catch on faster than names like Robert or Amy.

    However, most people bring their own preconceived notions and ideas about names usually due to people they’ve known in their past. Like me: I tend to dislike people named Chad or Todd (don’t ask me why). But this has no bearing on how I might feel about a character once I’ve gotten involved in the story, meanings change very easily in the human experience. We, as meaning makers, is a whole other conversation.

    • Hi Wt! An interesting point of view. I suppose if the writer believes that the name suits the person/character that they have in their head, then the reader knows no different? I know that when I am writing, if someone else suggests a name for a character, I will know immediately whether it is right for them or not. Sometimes, the name just comes from nowhere and I never question it, other times, I have to do a little digging! Your concept that you might dislike a character initially due to personal experience is interesting. I remember when my sister was picking names for her new baby and I suggested one, it was “Oh no! There’s a girl called that at nursery and she is a little *******!” So instantly, she discounted it. Strange beings aren’t we?? 😉 Saffy. x

  2. melinda:)xoxo says:

    What’s in a name? Lots! For instance, imagine all the boys named Richard who will forever be called “Dick”… “Hey Dick, how are you?” “Whats’ up Dick?” I am sure their parents had good intentions and never intended for their beloved sons to always have Dick thrown in their faces…ha, that didn’t exactly come out the way I intended, LOL! You know I mean! Or take a storyline for instance where the hero is a strong, handsome, fierce warrior, battle worn but always ready to defend your honor, coming to your rescue when needed and always ready to throw down to kick some butt when a can of whoop ass in order. Now imagine this warriors name is say, Gene, or Lance, for instance. Those names just do not inspire the image you may have in mind. Now Damien, Damon or Magnus and Ash… those are strong manly man names, that when said invoke a sense of power and even a bit of wonderment and mysteriousness, sexy and wily. That’s what I get when I say those names.

    As for your name Saffina Desforges, what a fabulous name you have. I have said before it reminds me of a strong, sexy vampiress, perhaps a hunter of her kind who have become a bit too naughty for their own good, who can slice and dice with flick of her wrist and also seduce and make men fall head over heels in love with her with just one glimpse into her captivating eyes, with a switch in her hips and confidence in her swagger. That is what I imagine when I say your name. So you can see how much depends on a good name for characters. Sometimes the name may come to you first, then their attitude and aspect reveals itself or a characters name may come to you later after you have written their story… whatever the process, a good name makes all the difference. It is something tangible that you have to feel, that invokes certain emotions, encompasses all the particular traits a person has in your storyline.

    As WT says, a unique name is always where it’s at. Much more interesting than Joan or James. And I completely agree with certain associations one might have with certain names, whether they are negative or positive. Example of the negative: for safe measurement and good common sense, unless you are writing about Hitler, never name a character Hitler… not good at all.

    But I digress…what’s in a name? For so many reasons, so many things! As for you
    Miss SD, vampire huntress extraordinaire, what names you will come up with and what those characters are all about remains to be seen. I do know one thing though… their stories, the world for them you create will be very interesting indeed!

    One thing I wanna know? How did whippedtopping come up with her name? Either she really loves to eat whipped topping, yum, or loves to do other fun stuff with it, yum!LOL! See what I mean? Names make you wonder, give you preconceived notions. So which is it WT?xoxo

    Your friend who is not so sh!t hot on her name, Melinda, blah, LOL!!!


    • haha, once again, you have made me smile my friend. You never fail to do so! Wonderful reasoning of why a name is important and it just reaffirms my personal belief that the character names have to be PERFECT in my head and then that will transcend to the reader. There are MANY more characters being born as the story progresses. We have a DCI Cal Silver and his side-kick Ellen Brookes, Lisa Forrester is a museum curator and Faith Arrington is the owner of Guiding Light Legal Services………see, they’re springing up all over the place! haha. As for WT, maybe she can answer your question about her name. Lots of love, Saffy. xx

      PS. If it makes you feel any better Melinda, Saffina Desforges is just a pen name, my own isn’t anywhere near as exciting!

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