I was recently asked how I came up with the name for my characters and whether they were based on real people or not. Writers will tell you that naming a character is one of the most difficult decisions one must make. A name should fit personality and characteristics. If it does not then there is a disconnect between name and character that most readers find unforgiving. I know. I have been such a reader before. I am reminded of a story all of my students read in their first year in high school. In THE SCARLET IBIS a diminutive character is born feeble and is expected to die. They name him William Armstrong and liken the name to tying a long tail on a small kite. When they realize the child will miraculously live, they rename him Doodle. The new name is more appropriate and highlights one of the sad ironies in the story.
My characters were not based on people that I know, but rather the summation of experience and stereotypes I have gain from a lifetime of reading, watching movies, and living in our society. I wanted the main characters be original. Other characters need to be more general in nature. Sarah, Jennifer, and Nicole are generic and traditional enough to fit a rich person just as easily as they would a poor one. Each could easily be good and bad. Which is which? Good question! We are all good or bad depending upon the moment and context. The lines between good and bad become blurred when you examine cause and effect. In my story characters with common names are likewise good and bad depending on the context. You will discover that I deal with issue on a deeper level in the second book.
An interesting side note is how I came up with the name for Serenity. Would you believe that I originally was going to give her the name Bella? She is French and Bella is a traditional French name. I originally was going to play on the meaning of Bella, which means beautiful in both French and Italian. I even wrote the first hundred pages using Bella. Little did I know, as I had not yet read nor really knew much about TWILIGHT, that Stephanie Meyer’s heroine was named Bella. You can imagine my disappointment when my students pointed this out. They laughed. I laughed and then sighed for I knew I must find another. As is often the case, the product of such necessities is often beneficial. Serenity was an even better choice. I will leave it to you, the reader, to discover why I believe this.
Shakespeare asks the question in Romeo and Juliet: “A rose by any other word would smell as sweet, so Romeo would were not Romeo called retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title…” What’s in a name? Juliet thought it meant nothing. Of course she did end up losing everyone dear to her parents and then killed herself. Can we really trust her judgment? What’s in a name? Everything… and nothing.