Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's in a Name?

The significance of character names cannot be stressed enough. Names often reflect the region of the character’s origin and should convey some meaning about the character, even if it's subliminal.  

I'll use My Mother Grows Wallflowers as an example. It takes place in Vermont. Most of the people in this area are of Puritan stock, so I picked "English" sounding last names. Mason, Winslow, Whitman, Fields. Even Miller is a good old Yankee name, though I used Two Bears to let the reader know there was something different, exotic even, about Samuel Two Bears Miller. Names are an important facet of character development.  

First names are just as important. Biblical names are common place in New England--with nary a Miyoko, Lebron or Jesus among the bunch...which in itself tells you something. But there could be, if such a character moved to town. Mina Mason's parents are very old, very plain Vermonters and their names reflect that, George and Gertrude. Sam’s father’s name is Jack, quite ordinary, while his mother’s name Lilith is a bit more unusual, just like the Millers themselves aren’t the typical mix for Vermont.

Wilhelmina- means “resolute protector.” Mina means “love.” (Mina's mother named her after a soap opera character, but Mina is a protector.) 

The Miller kids have biblical names to honor their father's New England roots:  Orrin, Joseph, Samuel and Sarah-- all except Winona. Winona is actually a Sioux name that means “first-born daughter.” So, how could their first daughter be named anything else? And their last daughter? Sarah means “princess.” Is there a more appropriate name for the baby girl of a family?

The name Blair became popular as a girl’s name in the late 80's to early 90's, thanks to "The Facts of Life," a television show whose most prominent character was a rich, pretty and spoiled blond named Blair.

Robbie- I used Robbie because it intimates a small boy--they still call this character Robbie even as an adult, hinting he never grew up.

The bottom line is a character name should be picked only after careful thought and with good reason.


  1. This so true. I completely agree. Names could make us instantly dislike a character or maybe even find him silly. I once read a book where the main character, who was a shape-shifting wolf, was named Rufus. Needless to say, my mental image of him was more akin to a dog than a sexy alpha hero. Not engaging!!!

    1. Thanks, CJ for stopping by and leaving a comment. Rufus, huh? You're right about the image. Please, folks, choose those names with care.