When I hear “Sherlock,” I think of highly functioning sociopaths. When I hear “Dean,” I think of brotherhood and loyalty. When I hear “Doctor,” I do not think of my general practitioner (sorry, Doc).
Impressions given by and historically attached to names influence how we assign them in fiction. Presently we seem to take those conjectures and go where they point us without a second thought, easily allowing past determinations to govern how we title our heroes. What if we didn’t?
Several months ago someone wrote a post about names associated with handsome men. (She asked for names people associated with hot guys in fiction and I’ve gotta say I wasn’t surprised with the list people came up with). That got me thinking…
Now, you and I have both probably read much of the same general advice about naming characters: “The name speaks volumes about a character.” “Choose carefully.” “Choose for meaning.”
Essentially, a rugged guy needs a “rugged” name. A sassy lady needs a “sassy” name. A studious character needs an intellectual name. I think we’re inclined to be acquiescent of popular ideas (socially constructed, imaginary) and corresponding popular guidelines that lead us to neatly apply names like adjectives. As an easy, preformed extension of a persona.
Names acquired their present connotations at some point in time, right? So, what if we could built a new character so powerfully that it reimagines the perception/reception of a name previously stereotyped, shunned, or even ignored? Instead of a name that changes the character, we embolden a character who changes the name.
Pick A Name
I have a soft spot for nerdy uncommon names (“uncool/boring” names not frequently used by modern Prince Charming’s, YA heroines, or most main characters post-1960). I also enjoy mismatching names/characters, as well as bringing back names that died with our great-grandparents. As writers we have those abilities, don’t we?
Once Again, What If…
What if you could take a historically hated name and replace the disgust surrounding it with hope? Better yet, what if you could transform a plain name into something so believably awesome that it can change someone’s view of their own name which perhaps they’d never truly liked? (I like forward-looking “what-if’s.” So many possibilities.)
[I might be reaching with this topic but I’m okay with that. I’m just thinkin’.]