I’m the kind of person to whom a rose by any other name would NOT smell just a sweet. Like Anne Shirley, “I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” (Although, in all honesty, while thistles are the ugliest flowers I’ve ever seen, I really like the word thistle and before I had seen what a thistle was, I thought thistles were very picturesque weeds…)
So names are evidently very important to me. They’re your first impression, your identity; a girl named Cece must be very different than a girl named Caroline (right?). So, as a writer (kind of), I spend a lot of time (perhaps too much) picking names for my characters. I’m also the kind of girl who started planning out my entire life at 12 and had started naming my (as of yet, fatherless) children when I was six. I’m a little conflicted though. On the one elbow, I think it would be very cool, and unique and all, to have a daughter named Celery, or, you know, Apple. But, on the other, I think people who inflict such names on their children are not only ridiculous, but also cruel.
That’s why naming characters is so much better than naming babies. Because, firstly, characters aren’t babies anymore when they’re born, they can be as old as you want, and you already know they’re whole personality and can name them aptly based on that knowledge. Although, when it comes to real life babies, some people (myself included) believe that what you name a kid affects their personality and they fit into the name, rather than the name innately suiting them. So, there’s that argument for baby names over character names, because by that logic, character namers have to work backwards, which can, sometimes, be harder. A second reason character naming rocks, is that, unlike when you name a baby, you don’t run the risk of doing irreparable damage that even years of therapy won’t fix (unless that’s the effect you’re going for, and in which case, you won’t feel quite so bad when it happens, nor will you be the one who has to pay said therapist’s exorbitant fees). Lastly, you tend to work on whatever it is you’re writing for a while, and you can change you character’s names as much as you want, until you find just the right one. In the real world, changing your baby’s name isn’t all that easy (so I’m told … as of yet I don’t actually have any offspring to speak of). Presumably, once your baby’s registered into the system, you can’t just decide that, “maybe Gardenia is a stupid name, perhaps we should have gone with Tulip”.
But then there’s literary names. In my humble opinion, it’s a little awkward to give your characters a name that’s famous from another book; then the reader is probably aware of the other character’s personality and will remind them of that character when they should be falling in love (or hate) with your character. I think it would only work if you’re purposely alluding to that other character for some reason or another, or if it’s a popular name that you happened to read in a book, but the character you’re ripping it from isn’t famous or anything.
So, I was recently thinking about what I would name my brood of unborn children, you know, if I wasn’t restricted by this thing called reality, or weighted down by my future husband’s opinion or concerned with inflicting emotional damage on said children.
I think it would be really adorable if I had quintuplets (that would be five babies born all at once … we’re suspending disbelief here, okay?) and I named them Elizabeth (because Elizabeth isn’t my real name, just a pseudonym, not being egotistic or anything), Jane, Emma, Catherine, and Marianne. And they’d be adorable little blondes, and I could dress them in adorable little dresses. And they could have a big sister named Meg (like in Little Women) and she could be my one brunette, who looks like me. I can just see it now, they would introduce themselves and follow-up with, “yes, we are, in fact, all named after fictional heroines, and yes, our mother is, in fact, a cruel, cruel psychopath.”
So, what would you name your kids, if you weren’t bound by reality?