Shauna Bickley

What’s in a name?

Posted on Friday 27th October 2017 by Shauna Bickley

My name is

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says, ‘What’s in a name?’

A name can tell us a lot about a person or character. They are generally a good pointer to age, background, famous celebrities of the time, and in UK they can be an indicator of social status.

A lot of years ago I did some short-term contract work at Cardiff University. I don’t remember much about the job, but I do remember the large database of student names.The full name of each student was captured and while there were some interesting first names, there were many more unusual middle names. A few of those names have stuck in my mind. One male student was named after several famous soccer players – his father was obviously an ardent Manchester United fan. Among the females was a Tamsin Tinuviel and another girl called Arwen. I guess their parents were Tolkein readers.

Sometimes a character arrives with a name, but often it’s a case of finding the right one and sometimes a character will have several name changes before I settle on the right one. There are those quirky things that writers are warned about, such as not giving two (or more) characters similar names or even names beginning with the same letter to avoid confusion. I’ve changed names for those reasons, but also when I’ve realised that the name isn’t right for the character.

Names can also accentuate characteristics. For example, in Lies of the Dead the middle sibling is called Andrea. As a child she felt left out and unloved by her mother, and she thought that if she had a boy’s name (she has two brothers), things would be different. From that point she decides she will only answer to Andi. This decision is core to who Andi is and plays a big part in her character development and the changes she has to make through the book.

What impressions have you gained of a character from their name?


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