Apr 8, 2011

What is in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
~ Shakespeare 

This is where I must disagree with my good friend, Mr. Shakespeare because I happen to think that names are important. Have you ever met a person and said, "Well you don't look like a Jack, Tom or Dianne." I know I have and it's just the same with naming characters. 

There are lots of methods that authors use for coming up with names. Some consult census for the year their character would have been born, visit baby naming sites or use family names. There are sites that have appeared over the years devoted to fantasy or gothic names and of course there are many names that are so unique that they must come from imagination. Certain names evoke emotions, for example the name Juliet often brings to mind romance and Confucius believed in the power of language so strongly that he believed a name given to a person had the ability to define them, and how others related to them. 

As I've said before, my characters usually start out with some kind of a flaw or quirk in their behavior and develop from there. They need a name while I get to know them and sometimes by the time they have fully developed the name just doesn't fit. I can't see them in my head when labeled with a certain moniker. That's when I know it's time to change. Fortunately in the world of fiction it is a much simpler process than in the real world.  

For instance in Shades of Atlantis, Caleb Wallace was originally called Ben. Caleb was initially a little softer around the edges and Ben seemed to suit but by the end of the first draft things had changed. There was a lot of going back and forth with my brother who was helping me decide. I tried sticking to Ben and even calling him Benjamin but, the only name that seemed to keep the character talking to me was Caleb.

For those who have read SoA, you're probably wondering about Ben Pryor, since that would have been confusing. Well, Ben started life as Kevin and Amanda as Kayla, although Amanda changed at editing stage. Triona (the 'o' is silent for those who have trouble pronouncing it) was always Triona.


  1. really interesting blog especially well timed for me of course as i'm reading shades of atlantis right now so its like getting the directors cut!!

  2. Haha, thank Karen. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Just found your blog via AbsoluteWrite... was interested in your username, actually. My first name is Triona (Irish father), and here in the US everyone pronounces it "Tree-oh-na."

    But glad to hear you stuck with the name :-)