What’s In a Name? More Than You Think
by Cassie Newell (originally posted on ryanlanz.com) It’s interesting how names come about in literature and other facets of life. Do you ever wonder how names come about in writing and whatnot? I read an interesting fact today. It was about how Clark Kent came to be Superman. If you know me very well, you know I have a great affection for superheroes and Superman is my all-time favorite. What was interesting to me is that in 1934 Superman was endowed with the strength of 10 men but he couldn’t fly. After being turned down by 15 syndicators, The Man of Steel took the air and acquired the needed strength to become a super legend. Some say Superman’s success is within the storyline of his secret identity whose name was derived from two popular actors of the time Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. And hence Clark Kent was born via secret identity to Superman. The interesting fact makes the debate of which came first the chicken or the egg come full circle.
I often think about names for my characters and what they mean and represent as I develop them. Then on other whims, I’m drawn to a quick name without consequence. It also depends on my mood and how developed I will make the character. I’ve used a variety of methods in coming up with names via character or fictional objects and places.
Did you know how the name ‘Wendy’ was invented by J. M. Barrie for a character in his 1904 play Peter Pan? The poet W. E. Henley, a close friend of Barrie’s, had a four-year-old daughter, Margaret. Because her father always referred to Barrie as a “friend”, she would try to imitate him by saying “fwend” or “fwendy–wendy.” Sadly, Margaret died at the age of six but her expression lives on in Peter Pan and to all the Wendy’s that have followed. I’ve loved this story for years and more so with my youngest, which I tend to think wanted to be a lost boy at one time. Nonetheless, I’ll always believe in fairies and Tinkerbell is by far the best fairy of all, plus her name is awesome.
Lastly, it’s also how writers name lands in the worlds they build. Did you know how L. Frank Baum came up with the name the Wizard of Oz in his classic tale of Dorothy Gale from Kansas? He began telling a group of children in 1899 about this story. A little girl asked him about the name of his magical land with the scarecrow, tin men, and cowardly lion. He looked around the room for inspiration. He happened to be sitting next to a filing cabinet with the drawers labeled A-G, H-N, and O-Z, which gave him a quick answer: OZ.
It’s interesting how writers come up with names for their stories, be it places, persons or things. Some use name generators or play with everyday words. Some use baby name books and search census data on popular names. Others view the meaning of names in order to select a name based on a character trait. If you read sci-fi or paranormal romance, you probably scratch your head on how to pronounce several names from time to time. I find it fascinating how writers come up with names. Also, these few facts and stories are quite interesting to behold for sure.
How do you come up with your character names? Is there a special formula? Any annoyances as a reader? Guest post contributed by Cassie Newell. Cassie’s professional background is in the clinical research field and now she blogs, writes, does graphic design and sketches. She is in pursuit of completing her first novel.