Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What's In A Name

How come Harry Potter was named Harry Potter and not Victor Steele?  Would you believe that somebody named Victor Steele lives under a stair case, gets abused by his caretakers, and is both feared and despised by countless others?  Of course not.

We treat different names differently.  Victor Steele is one of the most powerful names that is a real name.  Victor means winner and Steele is a well-know, quite strong metal (just with an extra e at the end).  It is a name of an extraordinary hero, somebody who was born to lead and was doing so since he could walk.

Harry Potter is a meek, mild name.  Harry is a nickname and Potter reminds us either of sculptures or plants, neither of which being particularly masculine in our culture.  However, it is not something silly or sad.  It is much stronger than Willy Loman (low man).  Harry Potter is the kind of name that could be powerful.  It could grow strong, even if it is not automatically strong.  It has just enough give to go from one side to the other.

What's in a name matters.  A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but few people would want to smell them if they were called pricky fart buds.  It is a subtle, but significant aspect of writing that is just as important to a character as their clothes, word choice, and views of people in general.

Pay attention to names.  Make them useful.  You don't need to give them hidden meanings.  Just give them the right sound and power for what you want your characters to be.

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