What’s in a Name?

That which we call a rose, by any other name would still smell as sweet…

My favorite version of “Romeo and Juliet” is Franco Zeffirelli’s version. I think I was once madly in love with Leonard Whiting. (Side note…I couldn’t understand why as an “older” woman I found Zac Efron so attractive, until I realized just how much he looks like Leonard Whiting!)  I’ll never forget sitting in the movie theater when I was in the ninth grade, bawling my eyes out even before either of the star-crossed lovers had taken their lives. However, I knew what was coming and couldn’t help myself! I got a lot of strange looks in that theater. I still wish Juliet would have woken up before Romeo took the poison! (Can’t help myself. I like happy endings!)

Another favorite movie of mine is “Shakespeare in Love.”  Again, about the writing of Romeo and Juliet. However, at one point, William was calling his play, Romeo and Ethel the Pirate King’s Daughter. (Or something like that!) I’m not sure about you, but “Ethel” completely changed the “ring” of her name. Took away some of the romantic feeling. I hope I’m not offending anyone in the blog world named “Ethel”. (Not my intent).

What I’m getting at is that your character names are very important. You may think that just pulling a name out of the sky, or creating something “cute” and “original” is the right answer. Sometimes it is.  In fact, I’ve been known to close my eyes, point a finger to my keyboard, and then choose a name based on whatever letter my finger touches. Most of the time, I choose my names carefully.

If you’re creating fantasy or new worlds, then you have more freedom. However, if you are doing historical fiction, you need to do a little more research. What names were popular during the time period you’re writing about? Also, depending on the nationality of the character you’re writing, that will also play a big part in your name choice.

I was recently writing a character who I described as having dark, curly hair that stuck out beneath his hat. He was a big man with dark skin, and a bad temper. So, in order to give him a proper name, I researched what nationality of people had those characteristics. Then, I searched for surnames in that nationality and found one I liked. (At that point the ‘point the finger at the keyboard game’ came in handy!)

How differently would you think of “Gone with the Wind” if the hero and heroine were Gertrude and Hector? Frankly my dear…

Have fun, and write on!DRWGF120110821P1020510w-M


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