Naming Names Part I
J.V. Jones
Mar 27th : 2008

The Great Gatsby, Scrooge, Heathcliff, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Huckleberry Finn, Gandalf, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler: these are names that tell us something about their owners. Even before we meet them we have an idea of what kind of characters they are. Naming a character is an opportunity to describe character. In Great Expectation, the hero is named Pip. Small, insignificant: a seed. Ahab, in Moby Dick, shares traits with his biblical counterpart; a doomed, obsessive king.
Just like people, names come with baggage. Name your hero Jack and readers will expect a manly man, rugged and prone to infidelity. Jack Nicholson, JFK, Jack London, Jack-of-Hearts: popular culture affects how we view names. Similarly with Monica, Bill, Michael, Johnny, Dick, Barbara, Elizabeth, George, Jennifer and so on. As writers we have to keep this in mind when choosing names, only letting the baggage do extra lifting as a conscious choice.