Why Your Characters’ Names Are Your Secret Ingredient

Why Your Characters’ Names Are Your Secret Ingredient

What we name the characters in our stories is important, don’t you think?

Why Your Characters’ Names Are Your Secret Ingredient

  1. Would James Bond be as iconic if he didn’t have those flat, blunt syllables in his moniker? I don’t think we’d follow his adventures if he was called Ainsley Anderson or Lindsay Smith.
  2. Would Dolly Parton’s evergreen hit, Jolene, capture the insolent appeal of a potential homewrecker if she’d named her title character something a bit worthier—say, Elizabeth or Gertrude.
  3. Would Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind have reached the same epic scale if her heroine was called Pansy O’Hara instead of Scarlett? Bizarre as it seems, Pansy was the author’s initial choice of name for her Southern belle.
  4. Would John Wayne, the tough cowboy of Hollywood westerns, still been the craggy hero of yesteryear if he hadn’t changed his birth name, abandoning the rather unfortunate Marion Robert Morrison?

Your character’s name often serves as a shorthand and can capture the personality of your character.

What does your name need to do to support your characterisation?

Consider these:

  1. A shady con man who has different aliases and different passports as he stays one step ahead of the law.
  2. The sexless, spinsterish character who is only ever referred to as Aunt Adaly.
  3. A stone-faced assassin known by his ironic street name of ‘Smiley’.
  4. The teenager who is a deadringer for Justin Bieber and is called ‘Beebs’ by his friends.
  5. The rich trust fund heir with a long family pedigree known only as ‘Junior’ long after his father has died (in fact, he’s already into his 50s).
  6. The beautiful new baby who is named after a beloved grandmother, Elizabeth, and carried on a family legacy.

Top Tip: If you want to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Anthony Ehlers

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