“Names are very interesting sounds; and names are often under the fiction writer’s control—names of characters. Uriah Heep…Jane Eyre…Beloved…. The sounds themselves and the echo-allusions hidden in them are intensely evocative. Names of places, too. Faulkner knew what he was doing with Yoknapatawpa County. To me one of the most deeply evocative invented (or to be exact, borrowed) names is Tolkein’s plain and simple name for the world of his fantasy: MIddle Earth.” From “Steering the Craft” by Ursula Le Guin
Names—what magic and power they hold! I remember Edith Wharton saying that one of the most important decisions she made in writing fiction was the choice of her characters’ names. If a name came to her and she changed it, the character would not cooperate with her until she changed it back. In a sense, she was saying that her characters named themselves and she just followed their lead. Fascinating!
Consider some of the names of literature’s legendary creations:
And what about titles—how evocative they can be!
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
“Cry, the Beloved Country”
“A Tale of Two Cities.”
“The Song of Achilles”
“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”
What character names stay in your mind long after you’ve finished a book? And how about titles—which ones do you find memorable? Names and titles are touchstones—they anchor and enchant. Let’s ponder the ones we use in our writing and make sure they release their full power to us as we all write on!
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