Saturday, September 25, 2010

What's In a Name?

Naming characters is one of those love it/hate it activities for me. It’s a real struggle to come up with a name that helps define the character and make him or her special in the scope of the story.

I’ve noticed a trend among some authors to give their characters truly unique names that you don’t hear every day, such as Chance, Reilly, Sherida, etc. I tend towards old-fashioned names. I like them. But once a beta reader criticized the names I’d chosen for one characters teen-aged children (Karen and Tom) saying that the names weren’t very good. Maybe.

What’s wrong with those names? Tom along with Dick and Harry have been around forever and have always done well for the men who use them. I don’t think we necessarily have to have exotic or unusual names for our characters to stand out. I think they will stand out on their own merits and not because of the glamour of the name we’ve given them.

Remember Tom Sawyer? Or Jane and Elizabeth Bennett? Dorothy Gale and Nick Carraway?  Do their names make them any less interesting as characters in books than, say, Heathcliff, Scarlett, or Sherlock?

And remember, the fictional character who’s sold more books than many of us could imagine is just a boy named Harry.

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