Character names are considered very important. There are whole books about finding the right name for your character. Whole websites. Tons of forums. Are names everything? Or are they nothing?
“A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” So a name is just a name, right?
But names have associations. Names have meanings. So do names make or break you story?
It depends on how you feel about meaning and branding. What I mean by branding is the characteristics and stereotypes associated with a name. For example, what is the brand you think of when you hear or see the name Scarlett? Or Edmund? Matthias? Johanna? Ariel? Prince Charming?
Snicker. I know, eyes rolling. Moving on.
Let’s take Edmund as an example. When I think of the name Edmund, I immediately think of Edmund Pevensie, the just king of Narnia. I think dark, with beautiful eyes (thanks to Skandar Keynes). I associate it with betrayal, and redemption. Edmund is a beautiful and heroic name to me.
Let’s add another layer. Did you know Edmund means Wealthy Protector? We’ll take the protector part first. Think of Edmund’s act of sacrifice in the great battle against the White Witch. When he slices through her wand with his sword and subjects himself to fatal injury at her hand, he is not just trying to prove himself. He is protecting his people. Think of when Shasta meets Edmund and Susan in Tashbaan. What was Edmund doing there? He was there to protect his sister, and that is precisely what he did.
Next, let’s look at the wealthy part. In what ways is Edmund wealthy? Besides being one of the kings of Narnia during the Golden Age, of course. Obviously he had lots of jewels and gold and fancy swords. How was he wealthy in Aslan? Or by his siblings? Was he wealthy in the love and respect of others? Did his wealth come from his jewels, or from the wisdom and care he received from those he gave himself so selflessly for?
So, names are definitely important. On the other hand, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect name for a character. Names add depth and layers to a character, but there are alternatives in every case. For example, a tough, life-loving survivor (female) could be named Zoe, Eve, Ayisha, Aoife, Keisha, Liv, Nona…Katniss…Tris…June…yeah, yeah, whatever. The point is, names don’t make or break a character. They do define character and have important implications that must be considered.
Which is a good thing. Because my name (my secret, real life name) means Black One, or Dark. If you knew me for real (and some of you do) than you know black one/dark does not describe me. At all. Period. I should have been named Angelica, or Blythe, or Felicia, or Hana, or Joy, or Lacey, or…well, you get the picture. Something light and fluffy. Oh! Is there a name that means fluffy?
Apparently not, unless your name actually IS Fluffy. 😦 Sad.
What do you think about names? Can you give any examples of names whose meaning or brand stick out to you?