How important is your character's name to you? Truly. Now think about it for a second. If you stripped away "Cora Lesley" from Cora Lesley, would you have the same girl? Or how about Dill Vervain Octavius Seasoning? Could he exist in the same form if he was named *shudder* Thomas Johnson?
Think of the people you know, and try to rechristen them. It just doesn't work, does it? It would seem their whole personality, as you know it, would change in an instant. I recently watched Sherwood Pictures' newest film, Courageous. While enjoying the film very much, I left the theater unable to recall the name of a single character...well, except Whats-his-name. :P It was perplexing for me, because though the characters were strong and I could talk about them per their personalities, the names simply did not fit. They were not memorable enough to stick with me past tossing the popcorn carton in the trash. And it has bothered me ever since.
When we, as "creators" of characters, give them a name, we are giving them half of their personality. Half of what makes them different from every other character in the wide wide world of literature. A name is a double-edged sword. It immediately sets one apart from the mass of people, and lets on a little bit of the characters personality. Charles Dickens was a master of choosing names that reflected, in some way, the person himself. Think of the host of characters peopling his novels:
Miss Betsey Trotwood-one immediately pictures a bustling, officious, stiff, but goodhearted woman.
Ham Peggoty--without a vestige more of thought that I would usually give line in a book, I knew Ham Peggoty was a bluff, honest, likeable young man with a country air about him.
Abel Magwitch--I don't know about you, but this is a convict's name and nothing else.
Estella Havisham--Cold, starlike, beautiful, unattainable--the name says it all.
Philip Pirrip, or Pip--I love the name Pip. A boy named Pip simply could not be all that bad. :)
I could go on, but I trust you get the point. The naming of a character, like the naming of a ship or the christening of a child, is a bit of eternity at the tip of your pen. (Relatively, in the case of the ship and the character) Make it worth your while. While I do not advocate excessively strange names, even in fantasy/sci-fi stories, or wild spellings like Kiylea (for Kylie), I like to make my names work for me. I am not a touting myself as a mistress of all naming ceremonies by any means, but I am patient with naming my characters. If a name does not fit, my character might be nameless for a scene or two. I try different names on my people, and if by the morning I am having trouble recalling what it was I named the character, I know it isn't right for them.
Here are some of the names in my tales:
Dharma--an Indian merchant and friend of the Seasoning children
Sali--cross, stout, Indian cook, sometime friend of the Seasoning children
Basil Andrew Cyrus Seasoning--he, and his siblings, rattle their four-digit names off like a catechism, but they give them distinguishment.
Miss Lily Piccalo--lovely, airy, rich, and sweet young lady who might have been the perfect mother, were it not for Dill's...ahem...Lies about certain family members.
Tuck and Dot Williams--Properly Tucker and Dorothy, this brother and sister duo are the essence of adorable childhood. Tuck gives one the idea of rather a Huckleberry Finn character, slightly tamed, and Dot is the perfect word to describe a baby so round and plump and rosy.
Flounder, Ann Company-- I have written her such to better show her name, spun up by her eccentric, Dickensian father. The name immediately sets this lass up to be a wild-card.
Gardenia O'Talley--Superfluous in everything, but especially her airs of Propriety, the O'Talley is stiff as starch, self-important, and no fun at all.
Nan Thrushwood--This name grew onto the character as naturally a morning glory twines up a trellis. It completes the picture of the plump, rosy, robin-like crofter's daughter who flies into the wintry darkness of Delgrade Heath and turns life upside down.
Cyril Delgrade--A cold, heartless, withdrawn name that perfectly fits the master of Delgrade Heath...that is, until... :)
See? Anyway, what are some of your characters' names? Are names important to you, or is it just a queer fancy of mine that the proper handle on a thing gives you a tighter grip? I challenge you to take a second look at your names and make sure they are working for you, not painting a picture of blandness over a sparkling personality. :) ~Rachel