Name Theory: Names are More than Titles for Things

In my last post I mentioned that I, as a name lover, enjoy when the names mean something to the plot. Frankly, I enjoy when the names show any meaning.

When making choices for my characters I always try to justify them, so the love interest in my current NaNoWriMo novel has shares his hyphenated surnames with his gay dads, the mean girl with a popular name goes by her first name and last initial, and the main character calls her best guy friend by a “feminine” nickname because she doesn’t think of him as a potential boyfriend.

In fact, and completely by accident, in this particular novel the main character’s name becomes something of meaning in her journey from “just a girl” to a young woman who knows where she’s going. Her actress mother gave her a friliana name that her stepmother shortened to something that sounds like a traditional name. Her best guy friend calls her by a nickname that is the first syllable of her real name, because he knew her before her stepmother changed her name. And her love interest is the first person to call her by her real name (other than teachers on the first day of school, and the occasional doctor) since her name was changed.

In the end of her story, I think she is going to reclaim her real name—because it is hers, more than because it suits her. This is the point of her story, as a girl who was just trucking along until she made one big choice that changed her life forever. In the end, she is a young woman with a future and a purpose—someone who deserves to be called whatever she chooses, and not what some adult has put upon her.

Names have meaning to the people who have them—and they have a power. Consider giving your characters names that will truly have meaning to them, and may bring a depth to their story. Remember that names aren’t just titles of things. Names have meaning.

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