A well chosen name can give the reader so much information before the writer even begins to flesh out the character. Take these three names for instance: Mavis, Chelsie and Quentin.
To my own mind the names conjure up the following details about the characters.
Mavis – A homely woman in her 50’s or older. Possibly a church goer and married to someone called Bernard or Ernest.
Chelsie – A young girl or child. Will probably sport a tight ponytail and wear cheap tracksuits.
Quentin – An upper class gent who is forty plus and is most likely out of touch with the real world.
The opinions are of course exaggerated but the do show the power of a name. Take Chelsie for example. If it was spelled
then it conjures up a totally
different character. Chelsea
Some better writers than me have chosen their character names very well. Zoe Sharp’s heroine Charlotte Fox goes by the name Charlie which alters her persona by making her seem more macho with the regendering which takes place by the shortening of her name.
Michael Connolly’s main protagonist is called Hieronymus Bosch after the painter but his Christian name is shortened to Harry. This gives Connolly the opportunity to introduce Bosch’s back story whenever he wants.
Some character names such as Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter or Tom Woods’ Victor do little more than offer a “does what it says on the tin” message about the character.
The reasoning above is why deciding on a character’s name is one of the most important parts of writing for me. I feel that if I get that right then I’m halfway to being able to depict what I need to about my characters.
If any of my readers can leave me a comment on how they choose a character name then I’d be grateful for any tips or advice.