“How did you come up with a name like that?” she asked.
|Dink - my writing partner sits|
by me on his hassack
one of those “special” birthdays. Blond miniature Dachshunds are rare, and his personality dripped with affection. My wife wrestled with names for him until she settled on a tough-guy name, Axel, and planned to get him a collar with bulldog-style pointed studs. Sure, the little guy was hung like a bull, walking bowlegged to deal with his natural endowment, but her macho name for him simply did not fit his diminutive size and gentle character.
|He loves everybody.|
During my twenty years as a pro bass fisherman, I spent weekends trying to find the biggest fish possible to win as much as $50,000. Small fish annoyed us and got tossed back as “dinks” that wasted our time. I jokingly called Sue’s puppy Dink, because he was so small. His head popped up and ears tilted forward at the first sound of that name. He liked it.
Dink never did answer to that name Sue gave him, but he responded immediately to the derogatory small fish term. It stuck. To this day, his tail wags instantly when he hears his name. More importantly, his sweet disposition never changed. As I type this, I am sitting on my living room couch with Dinkie right beside me. He’s waiting for me to drop my arm enough that he can lunge up to my face and slam his cheek against mine. It’s his way of hugging . . . he can’t get enough. His name definitely fits his temperament.
What’s in a name? Do names carry expectations? Can they convey images to readers?
I think so, but writers need to understand that their personal biases may not be shared by others. If you had an arch nemesis in high school named Buddy, would your life-long distaste for that name carry the same feeling for your readers? Jazmin came to mind for me recently when looking for a special female literary name. My wife liked it, but when I ran it by another friend, she laughed and asked, “Why do you want to use a stripper name?” She even yelled across the room to her husband, asking what he thought of the name. “Stripper!” he yelled back without hesitation.
Would Luke Skywalker have been as compelling if he was named Willy Bangwater? How about Harry Potter? What if he was named after a local pub owner . . . say, Jon Smith?
In my opinion, names will not make or break a character—only the story will do that. But, I do believe carefully selected names enhance a character and make the story more memorable for readers.
That said, do you have a favorite character in literature? If so, how much influence did his or her name have on your impression?