Many moons ago in college, I had to recite that name a number of times. Seriously. SZ (acronyms can be made from almost any collection of words, according to most “corporate” guidelines) was a professional Serbian tennis player who had a modest amount of success in the mid-1980’s. If my memory serves correctly, I believe he had a strong Wimbledon one year, but overall had greater success playing doubles. Hey, everyone has a story.
I’ve never forgotten that name. Likely never will. The sheer combination of consonants and vowels makes SZ’s name unique. When it comes to putting the right name with a certain character in a piece of fiction it’s rarely random. It could be a name that just pops in your head as you’re sketching out character traits, likes and dislikes, or even physical characteristics. Boom. There it is. Or you might need to put the character in a situation that allows him/her to exhibit a certain behavior.
For example, you need to show that your character repetitively runs her hands through her hair every time she feels like she’s in the spotlight. So you put together a scene, add in some dialogue, and just like that, the words spark an instant connection to a story and person in your current or past life…a neighbor down the street, your doctor, a visiting aunt, your second grade teacher.
I know a well-named author who, early on in his career, asked our mutual friend if she was okay with him using her son’s name in his book. She was ecstatic, despite the fact the character was a scumbag. The son is now close to 30 years old, and I think he’s proud to know his name has a broader connection with those who have read this author’s prolific work.
A name. It shapes our opinions and thoughts every time we meet someone new. For some, they would never use the name Andrew in a story. Either the name brought back gut-wrenching memories or it just didn’t fit, like an article of clothing. Saying the name out loud, reciting dialogue where the name is used, all of that helps us determine if that name matches everything, we, as authors, possibly envisioned.
I know in my first book I used different names through the first few drafts of the book. It allowed me to really connect with a couple of the characters, dig down and uncover deeper emotions and motivations.
The beauty of writing and reading books is developing our own personal bonds with stories, and the characters driving those emotions. It’s all in the name.
How do you connect with a name in a book? Do you have a couple of favorites, maybe a couple you really don’t want to see? Why?
Let me hear from you.