WHAT’S IN A NAME?

What did you sayWe talked about settings and locations. Sometimes these two words are interchangeable, but take another look. Location is the area, state, or country where you want your story to unfold. Setting is the word pictures of the location. The names you choose have an impact on your location and setting and time period.

If you are writing a novel — historical fiction or historical non-fiction, the names you give your characters are important. You need to use a certain name and see if your character fits the name. Sometimes, as writers, we hear a great name and an immediate urge to use this for our character hits. Sometimes, the character hates the name and nothing you write turns out great. Guess what? The character can damage your story with her/his actions.

Say you are writing in the late 1800’s and fell in love with the name Trixie. In researching, you find no such name for that period. Still, you want to shake up the era and get Trixie noticed. Your character does not follow your wants. Once you change her name to Emma, the story takes shape and you are on your way. Now, you need a male name to join Emma in her escapades. Lucas and Trixie might make headlines in a modern piece of work, but Emma needs a strong man with her.  After several names, your female character decides on Paul. As you continue to write their story, you find they work well together.

Skip forward to a modern era. You have the idea for a great romantic thriller with a female lead detective. Even in this scenario, you can see Trixie. But, no. A name gives a sense of personality, an influence on the character’s life, and an assumption on the part of the reader. A reader might hear this name and think of a flamboyant individual, not one to be a lead detective. So you scrounge around in your mind, research online, and look for strong names for a hard environment. Your inner voice whispers, Samantha, Sam for short. What about her partner? You get no help from your muse or Samantha. Okay, and you try Richard. His nicknames could be Rich,  Ricky, even Ricardo. You use these names for a few chapters and find they gain a respect for each other. This is your story.

The future holds a different line of names, which are too numerous to list. You need to get your location before any choice of names are discussed or decided. Is this a current day story with paranormal influences? Are you writing about future locations, which have not been named? Once you have your location and the settings, you need to read other stories and study the television shows in these settings.

Always remember, your character(s) know which name they feel comfortable with and will give you hours of pleasure with their antics and tribulations. These character(s) names will influence your readers. If the name sounds intelligent and attractive, then your readers will follow. Of course, this is fiction and the name your character wants can give a whole new meaning to the writing of your story. Listen to your character(s) wants and needs.

Be a creator of the best characters you can perceive and let them name themselves. Then they can’t complain. Much.

Happy Writing. Happy Name Research.

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