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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2041762
Rated: 18+ · Book · Writing · #2041762
A math guy's random thoughts.
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#964051 added August 11, 2019 at 1:05pm
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What's in a Name?
What's in a name?

We all have them. Most of us don't get to choose our names, or even our nicknames. I knew someone who never responded to "Billy," which was his way of rejecting a loathed variant of "William." In Oklahoma City in the 1980s, a retailer changed her legal name to "Soundtrak." But these are exceptions. Generally speaking, most of us are stuck with given names and even nicknames.

Fictional characters are stuck with their names, too, except that the author gets to choose the name. Sometimes the name is fraught with meaning. "Skywalker" is certainly such a name, or Ratzo Rizzo. Less obvious is the name of the hypnotist in "Dead Again," Madson, which reveals that he really is a "mad son." Other times, a name can be ironic. In this case, think of "Little John," or the bald Stooge named "Curly." Sometimes a name can just be for humor. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the entrance to the tunnel leading to the eponymous stone is guarded by a giant, slobbering three-headed dog named...wait for it...Fluffy.

The point is that the names of our characters aren't random. If we name a character "Hunter," for example, it's obvious that he's looking for something. Philip Vandamm in North By Northwest is surely damned for his nefarious character. Verbal Kint has a story to tell in The Usual Suspects. "Vader" is Dutch for "father." Sometimes a name can be an acronym for something else--Anna Madrigal from Tales of the City being a famous example.

There are plenty of sites that give you the history, meaning, and nationality of first names, with http://babynames.com being one of the best. They even have a page, https://www.babynames.com/lists/character-names.php, with suggestions for authors. Sites like http://ancestry.com can give you the history and meaning of many surnames. If you Google "how to name your characters," you'll find dozens of sites giving advice on this topic.

My purpose here isn't to repeat the good advice available elsewhere, but to give you some examples to think about as you select names for your character. Drop me a note with your favorite examples of a character with a meaningful name.

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