I can’t remember which poet it was who said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I’m not sure he was right about that one, honestly. I mean, yes, the rose probably would smell the same. It’s chemical composition wouldn’t change. But our human brains being what they are, if we called it stink flower or toxic fume blossom or some such, we’d probably interpret that lovely fragrance as dangerous and unpleasant. Instead of deliberately smelling roses we’d gasp and hold our noses. Gardeners would eradicate rose bushes and call them weeds.
If you’re about to meet somebody for the very first time, you’re going to have some pre-conceived notions based on their name. They’re probably wrong, since the individual was likely burdened with whatever moniker they carry at birth. But our brains being what they are, it’s pretty much inevitable. If you knew somebody named Petunia, for example, and she was a real bitch, that name is always going to have an unpleasant association for you. Alternately, if Fred was the sexiest boy in high school and you had a major crush on him that maybe was never quite extinguished, all of the Fred’s in the world are going to trigger your interest, at least for a minute.
Think about this. You’re about to meet an adult male who is, say, fifty years old. If you’re told that his name is Robert, you’re going to have a different first impression than if he’s a Bob or a Bobby, or even a Rob. When it comes to people called Eternal Sunshine or Tree, you’ll get another impression entirely.
You can play with this when you’re naming characters for stories. Maybe somebody’s legal name really is Bobby Burger. It’s on his birth certificate and all of his legal records. But he’s a sharp cat who wants to be a moving force in the high finance world. Or maybe he’s aiming to be president of the country. (Why think small?) Think about it: President Bobby Burger. All over the news, all the time. His name can help create story conflict and interest.
Alternately, you could have somebody named Elizabeth Marie Anastasia Rutherford II, and maybe she’s actually inclined to tattoos and weed and rides a motorcycle.
The possibilities are limitless. And fun.
I maintain, despite my recent stretch of crazy deadlines and stress, that writing should be fun. At least a lot of the time.
Kerry is the queen of the misfit story. She writes fantasy that has its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and women’s fiction that embraces the dark and twisty realms of humanity.