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What’s in a Name? (with apologies to Shakespeare)

What's in a Name“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

So says tragic Juliet, as she considers her attraction to Romeo, that bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  Of course, he came from the wrong family and the young, star-crossed lovers paid the price (incidentally, I can’t think of Romeo and Juliet without remembering my son – age 6 – practicing his lines as a member of the Capulet mob for a school play).  But I digress.  In this post, I’m going to explore the superficial meaning of Shakespeare’s line and consider what it means for your characters – in other words, does the choice of a character’s name affect how the reader perceives him?

I am struggling with names at the moment.  I’m currently 65,000 words into writing a novel (it’s about an affair between an older woman and a younger man), and I’m struggling with the hot-blooded stallion’s name.  I should say here that my novel is not 400 pages of Fifty Shades kinkery and although there are a couple of sex scenes (which I found excruciating to write – another blog post will appear about that), sex is not the main attraction between the two characters.  I’m comfortable with the woman’s name, and think it’s strong but also shows a degree of malleability – all important for her character development.  But the young fella’s name has me stumped.

He’s been Aiden, Callum, Gabe and is now Dewi.  Yep, even I’m not convinced by that last one. But I just can’t think of a name that isn’t too cheesy, not too predictable, but conjures up just the right level of modernity and sexiness.

I’m sure I read somewhere that writers for Mills and Boon like the names of their male protagonists to be short and snappy, just the one syllable.  The character in my book is confident and determined (quite unlike the heroine’s husband), so his name should be similarly to-the-point, without being overly cocky.  But can I come up with one?  Negative.  Perhaps I’m thinking about it too much.

I could do with some help.  Suggestions for the name of a male character who is young, vibrant, confident and eminently shaggable?  Gracias.

I’d also be curious to know how you decide on your characters’ names.

About Rebecca Burns

Rebecca Burns - writer of short stories.

Debut collection, "Catching the Barramundi", published by Odyssey Books in 2012 and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Award in 2013. Rebecca was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2011 and profiled as part of the University of Leicester's "Grassroutes" project, which is funded by the Arts Council and showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in Leicestershire.

Read a sample and download "Catching the Barramundi" at Amazon.

To read more of Rebecca's work, visit her web site found on the link below.

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  • Janet O'Kane August 27, 2013, 3:06 pm

    I have a book of baby names and also one of Scottish names (I’m English but set my stories in Scotland where I live). Watching TV also introduces me to some unusual names, and I’ll type them into my phone or iPad to remember them. Finally, I look through my bookcases at authors’ names, often using one of those surnames for an unusual first name.

    • Rebecca Burns September 1, 2013, 11:12 am

      Great ideas, Janet. But, looking at my bookcase…Rowling, anyone?