“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
You don’t have to be a big fan of Shakespeare, or even a fan of plays in general, to recognize the line above. It is one of the old playwright’s most famous lines from one of his most famous plays Romeo and Juliet.
In the play Romeo uses this line to try and convince Juliet that their surnames don’t mean anything and that their families century long feud shouldn’t come between them.
Of course, anyone who has actually read the play, or seen one of the many tv adaptations, knows that he couldn’t have been more wrong.
In fact, it is the power of those names, and the ancient feud behind them, from which the stories entire central conflict arises. (And maybe from foolishness in general, but the feud tied to their names was rooted in foolishness to begin with so…)
You see, Shakespeare understood the true power of names and applied that understanding to his plays. He understood that a person’s name, especially in fiction, carries a massive amount of weight.
He recognized that when used properly, a character’s name was just another tool in the clever writer’s arsenal.
In that case, what exactly is in a name?
THE POWER BEHIND THE NAME
Even in the real world, names carry a lot of power.
Studies have proven that there are certain names people associate with negative character traits and others that imply only positive character traits. And since first impressions are everything, and often begin with an introduction, people have found themselves prematurely judged because of their name.
Not only that, but other studies suggest your name can affect how your personality develops and even whether or not people will see you as attractive.
Is it any wonder, then, that mothers spend so much time picking out a name for their babies?
NAMES AND WRITERS
Taking all of that into consideration, I have come to believe that as writer’s we should work just as hard to find the perfect name for our own “babies”.
Our characters deserve the perfect names to go along with their great personalities.
Having the perfect name for our characters will not only give them a great introduction to our readers, helping them put their best foot forward, it will also allow us to write them more easily.
A lot of writers have admitted that after creating their character they found they couldn't write about them authentically until they changed their name. The character just wasn't who they were meant to be otherwise.
We definitely need to take the time necessary to give our characters the right name. And even if, horror of horrors, we find out it isn't the right name, we should swallow our pride and change it so the poor baby can have their proper chance to shine.
I hope by now I have managed to convince you how important choosing the right name for our character is.
Naming characters can sometimes be tons of fun and then other times it can be nothing but a pain in the neck. During the latter times it can be tempting to just stick any old name on our babies and get to the good stuff by actually writing about them.
But before we tack any old alias on our beloved characters, let's take a moment to consider just how much that name will affect them, and even ourselves, throughout the writing process.
Have you ever found yourself stuck with a character who had the wrong name? How important do you think character names are to a story? I'd love to discuss the topic in the comments!
The next few weeks are all going to be about character names so if you liked this post let me know and stay tuned for the rest of the series.