What’s in a name?

veelosvpr_mg_8859“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare’s famous line from Romeo & Juliet should by all accounts be a golden rule of thumb – and far be it from me to argue with a master! However, I find myself wondering if the sentiment applies to character names? Would your readers relate to the handsome, kind and sensitive male protagonist if his name was Spike? Likewise would your female antagonist, the bane of practically everyone’s existence, pure evil personified, pack as much punch if her name was Chloë?

It’s obvious to most of us that most names come with a degree of assumed characterisation. Anyone who has ever tried to name a baby will know that it’s incredibly hard to find a name that doesn’t also remind you of a former colleague, an ex, an irritating boss, the next door neighbours dog etc. etc. etc. We are surrounded by names and whilst some we find appealing, others make us cringe and wonder “what were his parents thinking???”.

When you’re writing a novel your characters names are often a reflection of their personalities. We want people to accept the inherent personality traits that “belong” to a given name and create an image of the character that harmonises with the one you are attempting to portray in the pages of your book.

So how do we go about this? Well, looking at what the net says here and there, I managed to unwittingly use some of the basic naming rules. There are plenty of articles out there to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Here’s a breakdown of the steps I took and rules I tried to stick to:

  1. Pick a name that reflects the characters culture, age and personality traits. Do the research and make a list of names that were popular in the country / culture, and decade your character was born in. What do the names mean? Are there cultural expectations connected to your chosen name? Anticipating these factors will allow you to provide your characters with names that feel “real” to your readers.
  2. Avoid hard to pronounce and difficult to remember names. As exotic and appealing as the names may be to you, they may just be too difficult for the average reader to pronounce and remember. Unless you plan to provide a glossary with a phonetic pronunciation guide, maybe pick another name.
  3. Some names are so “famous”, using them would be fairly pointless unless you’re writing fan fiction. If you want your characters to be unique to your novel, avoid names which will remind your readers of others with the same name. Bella, Khaleesi, Bond, Hermione … need I say more?
  4. Make sure your character’s names are indistinguishable from each other. A John, Jack and Jacob all within one plot leave us with a confused reader.
  5. Stick to the naming rules of your genre. Real world characters have real world names. Fantasy characters don’t have to!

At the end of the day your characters are yours and their names are up to you to decide. I found this to be a fun exercise and like naming my children, I found names I fell in love with and that match my characters perfectly! How did you get on?

Is it all about the desk?

img_4266As a new writer I’ve noticed my focus on all things writing related has increased tenfold and for the last few days, it’s been all about the space we write in. I’ve heard some fabulous examples over the years, about where famous authors create their worlds and fill them with amazing stories.

It’s no secret that the best place to write according to J.K Rowling, is in a café. Stephen King says in his book “On writing” that the most important part of your writing space is the door. He says the door not only serves to keep the world out, but it also serves to keep you in and focused on your work. Charles Dickens apparently loved his desk so much, he would have it shipped with him if he knew he would be gone for awhile. What this tells me is that there are likely as many favourite spaces to write as there are authors and that we must each find what works for us!

I know what doesn’t work for me: sitting at the dining table on a hard chair, surrounded by my children’s chatter and a constant demand for my attention. Having taken the step to jump into writing with both feet, I felt it was time to find a space where I can sit and be inspired to write. Which means what?

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Well, I like an organised space – everything with a place and everything in its place. That’s not to say I live in a house that never gets messy – quite the opposite with 3 kids, 4 cats, a dog and too much stuff! But chaos and untidiness make me feel claustrophobic and in figuring out what I will need to be at my most productive, an organised space is high on my list of priorities. I like the idea of Stephen Kings “closed door”, I’m just not sure it can be achieved, what with the ever-present need my children have to show me their newest colouring masterpiece or ask for yet another snack! Anything else? A window. I find I’m a muller and when I’m thinking things through, I tend to stare out of the window rather than at my screen. A window to the street is a distraction maybe, but a window to the tree topped rock face behind my house, is the perfect view for my wonderings.

img_4261And so, armed with ideas of what I would like, and propelled by an extreme aversion to sitting another minute at the dining table, my husband and I decided to convert our storage room into a work place for me. We went to IKEA and bought what we needed and thanks to his handyman skills – installing a huge desk and plenty of storage space – I now have the perfect work place for me! It’s a combined workspace for both sewing and writing and since I’ve spent several days doing an insane amount of sorting and organising, it’s beginning to look just how I want it. I have no idea if it will make my writing better, but I know it’s a space I will enjoy spending time in, and hopefully that will at least inspire me to write more and better than anywhere else!

What about you? Where do you write? Drop me a comment and let me know! And where ever you are – I hope you feel inspired to write today!