One of the more significant differences between writing poetry and prose is the use of names. In my poems I seldom reference the name of a person and when I do, that name must fit perfectly. When writing prose I feel my inner poet reaching out yelling that name does not fit the character and needs a new one. So, I find myself researching names for the millionth time and I’ve discovered 2 things: my favorite websites for researching names, their origins, variations and meanings and I need a new notebook.
There are two sites I frequent when researching names. First is Behind the Name. I find this site easy to navigate, search for specifics and narrow down choices. For most names it gives the meaning and if applicable the history, which is great because I like to know what kind of weight I’m adding to character by choosing a certain name. Did you know that Evelyn was in the top 25 of 2011 most popular girls names in the United States? Or that Nevaeh was 35th? I might have thought (if I was inclined to use those names) that I would be giving semi uncommon, or fairly rare in the latter case, names to my characters. The second site I often refer to when researching names is Baby Names World. My friend, Dana suggested this site to me and it is really handy. Easy to navigate and you can save names to your “My Names” list. Convenient for any mother to be or in my case, writer.
After researching names I noticed I tend to grab the nearest paper and start jotting down all the ones I like. I easily fill it and start writing in the margins. So it seems, this weekend I will be starting a new notebook (and possibly a word spreadsheet to organize by origin or meaning) to collect my list of names I’ve fallen in love with. A few going in the notebook immediately will be Dagny, Cardea and Alphaeus. All three of these are the possible names of characters in the book I started. I love the idea that Dagny, as a girls name meaning “new day,” can be shortened to Dag. Who wouldn’t love a girl named Dag? Cardea and Alphaeus both mean changing and the characters I have outlined for them will certainly be undergoing some “changing.”
So the next time you are ready to name a character, know the weight that it carries. The history or meaning of a name could help sway you from a bad pairing for the personality of your character, or rekindle a forgotten or disliked name. For a writer creating a whole person, what’s in a name? Well the answer in this case is not so similar to Shakespeare.