Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Power of a Name

Choosing a name can be a struggle, at least it can be for me. I think it's important for your character to have a name that rolls off the tongue, and has a deeper meaning than just its obvious literary qualities. In my first picture book I decided to name the three sister's after the seasons of Winter (Fuyu), Spring (Haruko) and Fall (Aki). Each girl had qualities and features that made them like the season they were named after, and so the decision to name them these names was an easy one to make.
In my next book, the name of the main character (a nine-year-old little girl) was a bit hard to come up with. In this case I wasn't looking for something with a hidden meaning, I just wanted something that was cute, feisty sounding and dynamic. It needed to represent the character and be easy for young children to say. After much thinking I came up with Penelope Jane Parker (P.J. for short). It works for her and I liked the ring of it.
The current book I'm working on touches on the hidden meaning aspect of naming characters that I did with my first book. I love mythology and any time I can weave it into one of my stories I jump at the chance. The main characters are four siblings, much like my own children. There are two boys and two girls, and I wanted their names to represent their personalities and their strengths. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy and his name is Prometheus Swift. The name came to me quite easily and was the first thing I came up with, long before the story actually began to form in my head. His sisters and brother are also "p" named characters taken from mythology (Greek and Roman).
It's fun to name your characters. It's like picking out the names of your children. It has to be perfect, because it's the name they are going to have for the rest of their lives. It's the name that everyone will remember and it has to fit not only their appearance (what you picture that to be in your head), but also their personality. When you hear names like Ebenezer, Scarlett, Boo Radley, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy their appearance comes to you immediately and is in large part the product of their name. Even if you haven't seen a picture of them, or even if you have, in your mind you have a clear idea of what they look like and what they are like...names are powerful, so choosing one is important.

Happy writing.


Maureen Lipinski said...

No kidding! That's why I end up giving my characters the names that I would my own children!

Darn characters and their good-name-stealing tendencies!

Jillian Cantor said...

Love the name Penelope Jane (PJ)! She does definitely sound cute and spunky. Can't wait to meet her :-).

Carolyn McTighe said...

Thanks girls.