Thursday, February 22, 2018

Naming your Love Interest

Whenever I hear a good name, I try and memorise it in case it fits one of my future characters, much like some people do with future children. There's nothing I love more than finding the perfect name for my protagonist and knowing it's "the one." (It also provides hours of procrastination instead of actually writing...) But how do you find their perfect name?

When naming the love interest, I used to try and find a name that "went well" with my protagonist’s, but I quickly realised I was going about it all wrong. Your love interest will only work if they are a well-rounded character of their own BEFORE they meet your protagonist. Which means they need to have a name that stems from them (or their parents) rather than anything to do with your protag. Of course, if your protagonist is obsessed with a certain name, then your love interest's name might actually stem from them, but that's a rare event that I've only ever seen used in the genius play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

Choosing a name

Your character's full, official name would have come from their parents or legal guardians (we'll come back to nicknames), so you need to consider their heritage and parents' backgrounds. That includes race, religion, geographical background, social status, parents' values and even trends at the time when your character's parents would have been choosing their child's name. There's nothing worse than a 'Zane' popping up in a historical period novel.

British surnames often stemmed from old professions, so they are very important to consider when naming your characters. Even in fantasy, you have to know where your characters' surnames come from. Different cultures have different naming systems, such as "firstname" of "family name" or "father's name." If you do your research before choosing your characters' naming system, you can make sure their heritage is properly represented through the positioning or lack of a surname.

Nickname/chosen name
This is where you can solely look at your character and show what they think of themselves. Do they flaunt their given name, instead takeing a ludicrous nickname in rebellion of their parents/cultural expectations/ social standing/ political alignments? Are they trying to be ironic? Do they want to stand out so take an unusual nickname? Or are they in fact trying to blend in? A character's chosen nickname can reveal a lot about his or her personality in just one word. Contrast it to their given name and you open up another revealing window into their world view.

Given nickname
For obvious reasons, any nicknames that are given to your love interest (or any character) by others reveals how they are perceived by the world and therefore can hint at their character traits to the reader without having to expose them completely right away.

Although your love interest will have realistically been named by someone else, you can do a Charles Dickens and hint at their personality through their given name. After all, most people suit their names, right? Think about sounds and connotations when trawling through that baby names website. Soft sounds like "S" and "F", will evoke different ideas of a character's personality than harder sounds like "K" or "T". Same rule with vowels and consonants.

Of course, you might want to invert all of this and call your character something that totally flaunts the rules! But the point is, you'll know why you're doing it, and that will show through in your writing. And as you might have noticed, this post could be related to any character, not just the love interest, but it's February and the theme is love so...... enjoy!

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