It’s all in a name….

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Motherhood Musings, Writing

baby booties

It’s been raining babies lately and I’m not just referencing the long awaited Royal bub either.  In my neck of the woods it seems that Spring has made an early arrival and the announcements have started coming thick and fast, bombarding my facebook news-feed with every click.  This is fine by me, yet it was in the flurry of booties, frilly nappy covers and teeny Bond’s suits that I started to ponder the relevance of names.

Names are vitally important.  They help to define us, who we are and who we aspire to be.  This is a little ironic when you consider that, in fact, our name says more about our parents than they do about us.  Believe me when I say, I’ve had plenty of time as a teacher to shake my head in disbelief at some of the delightful offerings on my class roll at the beginning of each year.    Don’t parents realise that in the staff room we are hysterical with laughter (and seemingly not bowled over at innovation or creativity with vowels and consonants)?

Consequently, we took great care in naming each of our children and I’ll admit that the outcome was a conservative mix.  We have an Ellen, a Michael and a Rose (although admittedly we did name the dog after a beer, along with half the population of Adelaide).  It wasn’t that we didn’t try.   Michael was nearly Ajax; until the jokes about cleaning products became too much that we wimped out and named him after his grandfather instead.

So what has this to do with writing?  For a writer of fiction it has everything to do with it since names get to the very heart of our love affair with words.  Personally I feel as if I gestate and give birth to my characters.  I spend hours, even days wrestling over the name of my key protagonists.  I pore over Baby Name books, wasting an interminable amount of time googling the origins of names.  One of the central characters in my novel “Magpie Game” caused me to spend more time researching possibilities for his name than I did for my own children combined.  I called him Maton.  His parents allegedly named him after the celebrated Australian brand of guitars.  It is also an aboriginal word meaning ‘strong’ which I rather liked.  When a beta-reader suggested recently that I change the name to Gibson my husband nearly started to levitate with anxiety.  “You can’t do that!” he had exclaimed.  “His name is Maton.”

“It’s just a name,” I had rebutted, “Gibson will do the same job and will be more accessible to a broader audience.” His look of pure derision spoke volumes. “Fine, I’ll leave it.  I’ll change it only if publication of the book depends on it shall I?”

Crafting memorable characters begins with a name.  The right name must be memorable and capture the very essence and heart of the character that the writer hopes to create.  To be honest each time I christen my characters I secretly hope that I have indeed given birth to the next Harry Potter, Katniss Everdene or Bella Swan.


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