Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Post- Names Are Important

Today we are happy to have guest poster James R. Callan, author of A Ton of Gold here to talk about the importance of naming characters. Welcome James!

Names Are Important   by James R. Callan

Is selecting a name for you characters important?  Have you ever just picked up the telephone directory, opened it at random and grabbed a name?

Suppose Margaret Mitchell had named her protagonist Jane.  Would she have started the reader with a different impression than she did when she selected Scarlett?  Before we even meet Scarlett we have a feeling about her.  Scarlett reminds us of heat, emotion, energy, fire.  We expect a fiery, energetic, volatile woman. 

Do we start out with a different impression if the man guy is named Winston or Joe?
J.K. Rowling is one of the most successful writers of our time.  Do you think she spent time on her characters’ names – and not just the major characters?  And did they start us out with an impression?  Draco Malfoy?  Nymphadora Tonks?  Ron Wesley? Servius Snape?  Those names did not just trip off her tongue; she worked to come up with them.   Why, with all those great names, did she name the protagonist a rather plain name – Harry Potter?  Perhaps she wanted to give us the impression that he was an ordinary person, a reluctant hero. 

The name is part of the character.  Why do people change their name in real life?  Because they want a different persona, a different outward expression that better reflects how they feel about themselves, how they want to be viewed.  So you, the writer who is creating this character, need to decide how the character views herself.

In Deadly Additive,  Donn Taylor named a secondary character who always operated on the edge, Brinkman.  An accident?  I don’t think so.  Ian Fleming gave us some insight into the character of his antagonist in The Richest Man in the World when he named him Auric Goldfinger. 

Can the name mislead us?  Certainly, if you want it to.  Just don’t let it happen by mistake.  Tiffany can be a person who spends her life helping the homeless, living and eating with them, and then returning to her one room under the Elevated. Maybe her parents are rich and she was to be a debutant.  But the girl wanted to do something more important. 

You can use the name to help make the case for who this person is, or who the parents imagined she might be.  Holly Golightly was a happy, carefree woman.  Sam Spade was a straight forward, no frills, hard working person who dug for clues. 

Suppose your heroine is named Catherine. If she calls herself Cat, that tells us how she sees herself, and how the reader should view her.

Select the names of your characters carefully.  Do not use the name as simply a way to distinguish one character from another.  Make a conscious effort to select a name that helps build your character.

You work hard to give your book a name that will entice the reader to pick it up and read.  Select your character name to make your book memorable.

A Ton of Gold
A contemporary mystery / suspense novel

Can long forgotten, old folk tales affect the lives of people today? In A Ton of Gold, one certainly affected young, brilliant Crystal Moore. She stands on the brink of losing everything – her only family, her self-esteem, her career and quite possibly her life.  Two people are killed, others threatened, a house burned and an office fire-bombed – all because of an old folk tale, greed and ignorance. 

On top of that, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back.  This time he can destroy her career.  She’ll need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her streetwise housemate and her feisty 76 year-old grandmother.

About James Callen
After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his fourth book, A Ton of Gold, released in February, 2013.

Facebook:  James Callan
Twitter:  @jamesrcallan

On Amazon, in paperback, at: 
Or the Kindle edition at:       
Or from Oak Tree Press at:  

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