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Dickens had a way with names. Who can possibly forget Scrooge? His name is one of the most memorable in fiction. Then there’s Wilkins Micawber and Nicolas Nickleby and what about Pecksniff, Bumble and Sweedlepipe? Who can resist characters with names that conjure up irresistible stories?
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Juliet told Romeo that a name is meaningless, and she loves the person who is named, “Montague,” not the name itself and not the family. But the names Romeo and Juliet live—reflections of romance and love through generation after generation. Then there is Shakespeare’s Richard III—disagreements have raged for years about this unforgettable king.
The names given to characters in novels, stories and plays reside in the minds of readers and are borne by generations of children named after fictional characters. Think of the Bible—a perennial best seller—and names like Mary, Joseph, Ruth, John, James, David, Daniel and Matthew. How about Margaret Mitchell’s Ashley in Gone with the Wind and Lyman Frank Baum’s Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and we look back on childhood’s Christopher Robin and Benjamin Bunny? I will never forget the first book I read as a little girl titled Wags, Tags, Rags and Obadiah—the names of dogs.
I often use the first names of people I like or on my villain (revenge can be sweet and non-lethal,) names that history preserves or a name that fits their personalities. If a name comes with ease usually the writing does to.
What influences the names you give to your characters?