What’s In a Name?

You may think we're William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we're George.

You may think we’re William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we’re George.

If you have a sibling, especially one of the same gender, you were probably called by the wrong name from time to time. Growing up, my parents would occasionally call me by my sister’s name. I never understood why. After all, I had perfect recall of my classmate’s names. Why couldn’t my parents get two simple names right?

Then I became a mom of two boys. 😉 Enough said.

Charlie is the twentieth grandchild on my hubby’s side of the family. My mother-in-law just calls all her grandkids George.

Sometimes I want to do that with my characters. Every so often, choosing a name comes naturally, other times it takes research. I try to pick character names that have meaning for their role in the story. For example, I chose Ardan for the main character of The Stone of Kings because it means “high aspiration.”  An average reader probably wouldn’t pick up on it. But for those like me who revel in detail and happen to know the meaning, we realize from the start that there might be more to this clumsy little orphan boy.

Other name selections are more personal, like Sarah McKenna from Harp Lessons. She’s a fictionalized version of myself at that age, so of course her initials had to also be SM. Grandma Maggie is my Grandma Caroline and the story of letting strangers wander into her house for tea in case they were thirsty came from Grandma Caroline about her friend Maggie. 🙂

*giggles* And then there’s George. I couldn’t think of a name when I created the character in Harp Lessons, and I didn’t have time to research something at the time, so I borrowed the trick from my mother-in-law, and simply called him George. In The Stone of Kings, Hannah’s little brother (and Ardan’s alias) is also George. And in my NaNoWriMo book (tentatively titled The Secrets of the Kennel Plantation), George is the family name for the Kennel descendants.

The benefit of naming characters in a story, is that we, as authors, happen to know the character’s story and can name them accordingly. As parents, we have no idea what our children will grow up to do. My boys are William and Charlie, named for Shakespeare and Dickens. Will either of them ever grow to be great writers? I have no idea. But hubby agreed to their names because he was thinking of William Wallace and Charles Ingalls. I’ll be proud of them no matter what they choose to do with their lives as long as they live honorably. Personally, my mom happened to be watching Family Feud just before I was born and thought that the contestant named Shea had a pretty name. 😉

Do you look for meanings in names? Were you named for someone famous? Were you named for family? Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name and found that it totally described you? Does it not describe you at all? If you’re an author, do you have a particular method for choosing your character names?

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2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “What’s In a Name?

  1. Sasha

    Ha, I love how she calls everyone “George!” I love your boys names by the way, two of my favorites! I never thought about how fiction writers choose the names for their characters and how much thought goes into it. Very interesting!

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