Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Naming Characters, the Great Debate.

Let me share an old courtroom transcript with you, to explore the debate of naming characters.

Jennifer v. Shakespeare
In the case of the importance of a name.

Jennifer: Let me toss some questions out there for the court.

Is your name important to you? If your name was Elektra, would you have a more exciting life, especially if you were male? We have the ability to legally change our name, because names are important to us, and we want to ensure we've got the right name, a name that is genuine to us, to who we want to be. So why not give your characters adequate names.

I mean, really, what's more important, the meaning of your character's name, the meaning of your baby's name? Obviously the character name is more important, but as a side note, something I've been wondering for a while; if your last name is Webster, Clay, Calhoun, or Lincoln are you obliged to name your child Daniel, Henry, John C. or Abraham respectively?

Back to the facts. Names are important, and the meaning behind them is important, so when you choose a name for your character, think about it, make it meaningful. Not only does this enrich your characters, but it deepens the meaning of your story and enhances your writing overall.

(Whereupon, Jennifer sits down and looks to Shakespeare.)

(Whereupon, Shakespeare stands, takes a drink of water and clears his throat.)

Shakespeare: The good people of the court must agree with me, when I say what's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. I have also said "The man that finds that his senses have precieved the stench of gruesome death, and to quethe this knowledge on the guests, surely he spoiled the party" (Current day context: He who smelt it, dealt it).

(Whereupon, the courtroom laughs.)

But that quote has nothing to do with this argument, it was merely used to make you all like me better and possibly vote for my side of the argument. But as a writer and a reader, I believe that an object or a person has substance beyond their name. You may call me Shakespeare or Steve and I will write the same, have the same wit, still get your vote, I am still the same man with or without my name.

(Whereupon, the case in the above-entitled matter was submitted.)


As a side note: I'm working on reading more in 2009. So, I'm keeping a list on this blog showing what I've read this year. If you have any good book suggestions, bring them on (please one per person, and no suggestions like "everyone poops". I would enjoy something that will actually enrich my life). I will read at least 50 pages and if it still sucks, I will allow you another suggestion. Then, as the year goes on, I'll add finished books to my list and probably drop a line or two about the book at the end of a post.


Cultural Laureate, Cecilia said...

Jennifer, pooping definitely enriches your life. Try not doing it for a while- then you'll REally spoil the party.
Eh' Shakey Baby?

Amanda said...

I second Cecy's comment. Also, who names babies anyways? I thought we just let them choose a name after they killed their first boar - wait, we're talking about "Clan of the Cave Bear" right? Hmmm....still haven't decided on a book choice. I'll put something up later this afternoon.

Amanda said...

Okay - my reccomendation is "A Man of the People" by Chinua Achebe. If you can't find a copy at CADL, you can borrow mine :)