NANP: More Than Just The Name

Tim is another author I discovered through Twitter, although I’ve had his first Blood War novel on my Kindle for PC App since before that, just never got around to it. Having interacted with the man quite a bit in recent months, and even having read some of his work, I definitely have to say that I’m addicted. His horror anthology Fading Light (Review) was quite good and I’ve recently finished reading his latest novella Prey (review soon). I expect to be reading more from him soon! He was hesitant about doing this guest post for Names: A New Perspective, but I have to say that it turned out really well, and once again highlights how different authors have different processes for this. Excellent stuff!

Prey-Cover1More Than Just The Name

by Tim Marquitz

For many authors, far more than you might think. They dig into the etymology of their character and location names, parsing through source languages to lend their choices weight and meaning in the overall scheme of their story. It can be a complicated process. There’s a sense of world building and wonder that comes along with this process, a way to breathe a deeper sort of life into their worlds and into their characters. It’s an impressive endeavor; one I wish I thought mattered more.

For me, names are secondary to characterization. Barring a name that is so complicated that it’s impossible to say the same way twice, I feel an author can make any name fit as long as the characterization is on point. People in the real world do it all the time. We’re trained to accept, at a surface level, whatever name a person is tagged with. We might offer up nicknames or alternatives due to actions or personality quirks, or just plain off-the-wall names, but at the root of it, we don’t question why a person is named a certain thing; they just are.

For me, it’s the exact same in books. Names are more of a way to tell people apart than a defining characteristic upon which the character is built. While we, as readers, carry a measure of stereotypical baggage into a book, tagging characters with traits we’ve attached to the name, Poindexter, for example, it’s hard to imagine a character with that name being a world beater, but certainly not impossible. Just picture Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter. You wouldn’t attribute any malicious intent to the name had you not read the books or watched the TV series. However, once you have, Dexter no longer seems to carry the baggage of being a weak name. That’s the power of characterization in defiance of our presumptions.

Obviously an author wants to create a sense of connection to their world through naming conventions–a character named Bubba not being the best choice for the lead in a legal drama up north–but I don’t feel it’s the biggest issue that needs facing. An author can emote the proper characteristics, the acceptable nature of the character, regardless of its name. Stereotypes can be broken down, reformed, or abandoned by an author whose talent in characterization is solid. Readers might not like the character being named Bubba, but they’ll accept it.

Ultimately, character and location names are going to be remembered on the strengths of the writer who’s brought them to life, not by some arbitrary tag. Just like in real life, a reader will be more deeply impacted by a character for their deeds and actions rather than their name.


Tim Marquitz on Twitter, Facebook, and Web.

The next guest is Ciara Ballintyne on 7th January. You can find a full schedule on the link at the top of the post.

Posted on January 3, 2013, in Debut Authors Guest Series, Guest Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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