Welcome the lovely Nicole Gestalt to Friends Friday today!
What’s in a name?
Everyone has a name, most have the one given to them by their parents at birth, other’s a nickname or sometimes even a name they have decided upon later in life. These names (with the possible exception of the nicknames!) are agonised over by those who are picking them, they are looked at from every angle, taken apart to make sure that they can’t be shortened or used to be made fun of and then finally decided upon.
The same worry and decision goes into names of the main characters when writing a book. In fact sometimes it’s harder to pick a protagonists name then a baby’s name, as in most cases you will have lived with the baby’s surname for some time and will already have an idea of what will fit.
Imagine you are settling down to read a book you have been looking forward to for ages, it is in your favourite genre and has been recommended to you by all of those who know you like such books. Sitting down in your most comfortable chair with a cup of tea you open the first page and begin to read, it is then that to your horror the main protagonists name jars so badly with you and the rest of the plot you can never take it seriously when you read the name. This is no fault of the name which for all intents and purposes is a good name it just doesn’t fit the setting and the character. Take for example Pride and Prejudice what if Mr Darcy had been called Ziggy? Could we have taken him seriously, would he have had the necessary decorum for us to love/hate/feel for his character?
As an example of a totally fitting name I have read recently in the Burton and Swinburne novels, the poet is named Algernon, this is a name I would find really hard to fit into a modern setting but so obviously fits the books Victorian time period.
I personally find names incredibly hard to pick, I agonise over them for hours and still am not always happy with the result. To prevent me from freezing up and not writing anything else I have begun to use place names, these are names for character’s who I have not yet picked their final names.
For example my present work in progress which is a fantasy story set on another plane has a main male protagonist called Bob. Now there is nothing wrong per sae with Bob as a name but it is not right for an inter-planar being who can do magic as easily as breathing. Once I have worked out his personality and what he looks like (all something I prefer to do as I’m writing rather than beforehand although I know some writers work this information out long before they begin to write the story) I will change his name in the second draft. Do not forget what the character looks like, this can have a huge bearing on a name, would Conan fit someone who was only five feet tall or Morticia someone who is so very blonde and bubbly?
Of course the big stumbling block with fantasy work is getting a name that fits an unusual setting and is readable but can also be read out loud without sounding like someone just gargling. Even some of our greatest authors have been slightly at fault with this take J.R.R.Tolkien how do we pronounce Sauron is it Saw-ron or could it be Sow-ron now most of us have seen the films we understand but whilst we were reading the name how did we pronounce it in our heads and did it change each time we saw the name?
That is the great thing about first drafts; you can experiment far more than you can normally and if it doesn’t work you can just change it! So a name can quickly turn into something far more fitting for the character that will allow the readers to remain with the story rather than bursting into laughter every time they are mentioned.
So unfortunately Bob is definitely on his way out and will be replaced with something far more fitting! Hmm how about that previously mentioned Ziggy? No I will have to work at it some more.
So next time you read a book look at the names of the protagonists and have heart for the authors who have spent hours agonising over what name to use.
Nicole’s latest release is Made to Mistress from House of Erotica! Pick it up at All Romance Ebooks and other good online book sellers!