Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's in a Name?

A fellow writer called me by my nickname the other day: Jewels (should be spelled Jules). He told me I should write a blog post about it. So, these are the names that are okay for people to call me: Julia or Jules. Yeah, you can call me funny, too, but that’s not required. The one name I don’t like being called is Julie. I have no problem with people named Julie. I know some fantastic people with the name, but I don’t feel like a Julie. At all! If my parents had wanted me called Julie, they would have named me it.

So where is this taking me and how can I tie it into writing?

When I started writing my book, the character’s names came to me quickly. It was like they were whispering their names to me as I wrote. Of course my book is set in Paris, France, so I printed off a list of common first names and surnames of French people. My main character’s name is Pierre. I love Pierre, but worried it wasn’t manly enough for him (no offense to all Pierre’s out there). I tried switching his name with a sub-character named Luc. It was not right at all. He is Pierre all the way! And Luc is Luc!

For me my characters must have the right name from the very beginning, otherwise I can’t fully develop them as real person. And they are very real to me.

For a trilogy I will write next, the characters spoke their names to me during a sleepless night. My cute and very intelligent Sophie is dying to come to life. However, one of the character’s names is not coming to me. I feel like a parent who can’t decide a name for their child after they’ve been born. Yes, he has been born in my mind. I hope to come up with a name for him, but it may not come until I start writing.

So, how do you flow when it comes to naming your characters? Do your character’s names have any weight on developing the story? Is it a must to give them a name at the very beginning? Or can you write it and have the names come to you later?


  1. I find my characters' names to be among the most important aspects to writing their story. I focus an awful lot not only on "does the name seem to fit" but the meaning of the name as well.
    I've thought through changing names of established characters and it always felt so wrong and ultimately I've never been able to do it.
    Usually if I don't have names before writing, the story never gets done. I don't know what it is!

    I'm really particular not only about character naming but people using nicknames on me. . . Strangely enough, I am a Julie who prefers Jewels.

  2. Hey Jules! ;)

    Groovy post as it's a very interesting subject. It's funny how, when some characters take on a life of their own, they cannot be called anything other than what THEY want to be called (if you know what I mean- and if you don't, call security, theres a crazy lady in the blogger)

  3. Contessa (aka: Jewels) I understand trying to change a name of a character in the middle of writing. It is like taking away their identity. PS: I love that you're a Julie. I love Julie's & I love you, too! hehe Thanks for the comment.

    Jenny - Thanks for the comment. I love how you always call me Jules. It makes me happy! Keep em coming. And I sometimes think I have multiple personalities cause all these characters are fighting their way out of me. It is all insanity! TY

  4. Great post, Julia!

    I've always been of the belief to name the characters who they are in the story. So, if a character's a brute, I'd call him Butch. If a character's ravishing, I'd call her Bella, which means beautiful in Italian. If a character's a real piece of work...well, you get the picture!

    But, sometimes, I don't even have to work for the character's name...they just come to me! Not only that, but their personality will match their name to a tee! Those are the times when magic was in the air and I just happened to tune into it at the right moment!

  5. I feel the same way about character's names. They are so very very important to me. I will spend days thinking about names before writing my story just because I cannot come up with the right name. And once I name a character and try to change it, somehow I can never do so. The name is just too important, too meaningful (even if it doesn't make sense).

  6. Jack, love your comments. Keep em coming, dude!

    Makes perfect sense Kris. My book's 2 MC's had names before I ever started writing. Then the rest came as I developed them into the book.

  7. When I had to name my 3 children it was one of the most difficult stressful things. We struggled with their names for weeks...months even. What if we got the name wrong? What if we gave them a name that didn't suit their (eventual) personality. Would we be dooming our kids forever?

    But with my book characters the names just pop in my brain without much thought. I think its because I know who my characters are so well. The names just flow easily.They grab their names all on their own.

  8. Ella - I am paranoid that I will pick awful names for my kids. Maybe I should name one, two, three, and four until I can see their personality better as they grow. haha. Can you imagine. "I love you little One!" har har.
    Naming characters comes a bit easier for me. Hopefully, naming my kids will be too! Thanks for the comment!