What’s in a Name?

I’m delighted to share a guest post (geared to writers) from my youngest daughter Jennifer. She is a college-student, freelance writer, and aspiring novelist.

Whether it’s a person, place, thing or the title of your story, don’t underestimate the power of the name. The name can reveal.

Candy, the prostitute, is just that, a prostitute. Ashley is the young girl torn from innocence, forced into prostitution, and in search of true love.

A name can foreshadow. When your hero enters the city Sheol, translated to mean grave or hell, we know danger waits.

A well thought-out name rounds the hero and reveals something of their character or purpose.

Borrowing from an example in my screenwriting class, in the Hitchcock film Psycho, the sign of Bate’s Motel draws the heroine toward her murder. Likewise kind motel owner, Norman Bates is the worm on the hook – the bait.

Take a second look at your character and place names. What can they reveal about your hero? Can they up the suspense through foreshadowing? Trigger a reaction in your heroine? Or sign the death certificate of your villain? Show us your world through names.

Thank you, Jennifer. You’ve given the writers here lots to consider. 

I spend a lot of time trying to get my characters’ names just right. I try not to have them start with the same letter to avoid confusing the reader. I try not to have them all sound the same like Hayley, Bailey and Kayley, because, well, it’s just too funny. I favor single syllable names for my heroes with G or K sounds. Not sure why!

I often look up the meanings of names. But I never thought of using a play on words such as Bate-bait. Although readers have pointed out some unintentional connections. Such as laud meaning to praise, and how Emile Laud is all about being esteemed.

Your Turn: Readers, what’s the most memorable name you’ve come across in a story or movie and why? Writers, how do you choose names for your characters? Share your favorite and why.

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