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Monday, April 29, 2013

By Any Other Name

There are topics that seem to have been blogged about by every writer at some point or other. Naming characters is a popular one. I thought I'd say my piece.

These are Ketchup and Mustard roses. Ketchup and Mustard. Really, plant naming community? That's the best you could come up with? Hamburger condiments?

That's bad. But, they look lovely sprinkled with rainwater in the front flower beds. They're beautiful, even if the name is less-than-inspired.

In a similar vein, all of my horses have come to me as adults, already named. My great black warmblood - striking fear in the hearts of neighbor children and veterinarians - doesn't have a mystical, violent name; he's just "Markus." Considering his sire's name was "Fruhling," I think "Markus" is pretty great. And not just that, but, once I got to know him, his name started to mean something. His name became synonymous with his personality; with his identity. And these days, I don't think anything about his name; it's his, and that's all there is to it.

The same goes for humans. When it's the people we love, the names become endearing little nuggets of sound; when it's the people we can't stand, the names become curses. It applies to fictional humans, too. Think about the last book you read. Did you love or hate a character because of his name? Or because of his actions? His personality? Like hair or eye color, a name is just another part of a character. The reason names inspire reactions from readers is because readers immediately think of the character attached to that name. The name "Bella" makes me nauseous. The name "Elizabeth" makes me smile.

The lesson here? Names are irrelevant. I wouldn't name a handsome prince "Shitface," but otherwise, you can name a character anything you like. And hey, who's to say "Shitface" wouldn't have some sort of significance to the story?

There's a lot of writers who will bust out charts and rules and say things like never give a protagonist a name that ends in a consonant - or some such - but all of this is just distracting jargon that gets other writers off topic and fretting about trivial things. And that bugs me. The name doesn't make the man; the man makes the name.


  1. The pictures of the roses are beautiful!!! I'm with you, the name doesn't make the man, the man makes the name - good or bad. GM

    1. I wish I could take credit for the roses. I just water and admire. Lol.