For me, naming is fun. And some people think I’m good at it. So this week I was thinking about how my love for naming may affect my naming in a positive way.
What crossed my mind was something I learned from an acting teacher: To play a character well an actor must love their character. Not like the character—many characters are not likable—but love the character. Every character, like every person, has bad characteristics and good (and loveable) characteristics; and every character deserves to be portrayed with compassion.
If, however, the actor does not love and accept the character for who the character is the actor will not be able to portray the character’s truth.
I try to keep this in mind when I’m writing. None of my characters should be good, perfect, beautiful, brilliant, gifted, likeable, and infallible; and none of my characters should be evil, a bundle of flaws, hideous, sublimely stupid, fully non-likeable, and a total failure. My characters should be as rounded and layered as people are, and I should love every one of them.
In a new novel I’ve started working on I have a girl who is not special but is very kind, a boy who is a good guy who does rude things, a bad boy who is a great friend, a father who abandons his daughter because he can’t face the pain of losing his wife, and an adulterer who wants to help his son learn how to commit and find happiness. Some of them are “good” people with flaws, and some are “bad” people with redemption.
In the novel I am editing I have a mother who is alternately cruel and fun, a young man who is an abuser who just wants to earn another’s love, a girl who makes a lot of mistakes but is ultimately a sweet person, a friend who cuts her bestie off but is there when the chips are down, and a father who fails to see everything around him but who just wants the best for his family. Some of these characters could easily veer into “evil” territory, but my goal is to keep them rounded and real.
And my goal is to love them. To see them for who they are inside, for why they act the way they do, for what they could have been if life had been kinder. My job is not to judge them, but to show them to the reader.
I love my characters, and I love my names. This is why I think many of my names are successful. I look for names that I love, not because I “like” them or because they are “beautiful” or “perfect”, but because they are full of the same aspects of the characters they fit.
For me, names are fun and naming is fun and I put my love into the names and naming. And I believe I often get back what I give out: I love naming and therefore I love the names I choose. I get names that help define the characters, that help the reader understand the character, and that help the reader love the character. Good, bad, or otherwise.