“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
Romeo and Juliet
Act II, Scene II
In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Juliet speaks this line to portray her love for Romeo and how she didn’t care that he is a “Montague.” His name did not matter but what is in a name? If we are to believe Juliet, then a name means nothing when compared to its nature. But as a writer naming our characters is sometimes essential to your story.
Behind the names of our characters is another story. It’s an inkling to who they are or the people they are not. It is oftentimes that the name is a special memory or link to the author. It can also clue in the character(s) role, their purpose, within the story.
Take for example the short story written by Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The plot of the story focuses on the love triangle between Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel and Abraham Van Brunt. Ichabod is an outsider, a schoolmaster from Connecticut, to the locals of Sleepy Hollow. He vies for the hand of Katrina because of her father’s wealth but is unsuccessful with his proposal. The story ends with legends of his disappearance after the Tassel party of being spirited away.
In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Ichabod truly lives up to his namesake. Why? The name Ichabod, in Hebrew, means no glory. He was unsuccessful in winning Katrina’s hand and thus her father’s fortune. And chased by a headless horseman, very likely a prank by a real human rider, and struck in the face by its severed head. So as a reader, can you find any glory for Ichabod Crane that night?
Did you know that the name Harry (Harry Potter Series) can mean virtue or army ruler? Even the names of my characters in my book blogs Harbingers of El Tinor and Nadia, the Hidden Fire Witch, has special meanings. In HoET, the main character Aithne is fiery and stubborn, just like her name. She’s also named after her mother who died giving birth to her.
In NtHFW series, Nadia means hope and like it or not, she’s the hope of witches around the world. Something that comes with responsibilities and restrictions. The main character in my novella The Soul Traveller (work in progress) is named Kyna Lynn. Kyna means wise and Lynn means from the lake. But would she able to live up to that name? Also, it’s the name I wanted to give my daughter one day, but there’s only boys here. Sigh.
But then there are times when writers chooses a name that has no relation to them, the character themselves or the story. There are times when they just pulled the name out of thin air. Or maybe because they’ve just always liked that particular name. Either way it has to come from somewhere. And the best place to look is where all expecting parents like to use, a baby name book. You can find one at your local library or buy one from the bookstore. I’ve always liked using Babycenter.com and Babynames.com.
Does the name of your character has any special meaning? Do you know their name meaning? How did you come up with their name? Or is it something dear to you? Please share in the comment section below.
Food for thought: Names are very important. They can clue you in on the character(s) personality. Or it could be a hint of their potential to become more than the meaning behind their names. So when you write your story, sit down and think hard about the naming process. And don’t forget that the names of imagined places and or objects are important as well. Of course you can completely make them up too, including their definitions, history, uses, etc. Just make a glossary to keep track of everything.