What’s in a name?

Apparently there is some confusion as to what my name means – some sources say Samantha is an Aramaic name meaning “Listener”, but others say it’s a combination of Samuel (“Name of God/God has heard”) and Anthea (“blossom”). I don’t know which meaning I like more.

As a writer, I think it’s important to choose a good name for your character. For one, you’re going to be using it an awful lot, so you may as well pick something you like. But I also find that once I know a character’s name (and often I name them before I know what they look like), they are forever associated with that name.

This also happens with other people/characters. For example, I automatically associate the name Harry with Harry Potter. And Jack makes me think of Jack Skellington (which is not going to stop me from naming my future son Jack…), although sometimes it makes me think of Jack Barakat:

http://i.ebayimg.com/t/Jack-Barakat-All-Time-Low-Guitar-Pick-Jack-Skellington-/00/s/NTAwWDUwMA==/$T2eC16RHJHMFG+92iwRFBR7YBOde-!~~60_35.JPG

Jack and Jack. Also yes, I just spent 30 minutes looking up pictures of All Time Low. You should too.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the origins and meanings of my characters’ names:

Olivia – olive tree, elf army (English)
Philippa (Pippa) – lover of horses (Greek)
Finnegan – fair, white (Irish)
Jason – healer (Greek)
Max – greatest (Latin)
Cam (Cameo) – shadow portrait (Greek)

Today I somewhat randomly decided that Cam’s first name is Cameo because I didn’t realize you could use that word as a name. Plus it sounds cool.

I like looking up meanings because I want to see if the names I chose reflect the characters themselves. Max is probably the greatest of all my characters, so I guess his name works. Otherwise, the meanings sort of fall short, which is totally fine.

I don’t know how other writers pick character names, but I tend to steal names. Sometimes it’s from real people (Max Burton = Max Helyer from You Me At Six + my hero Tim Burton) or other works (Pippa is from Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, Finn’s mom is named Miranda after Prospero’s daughter in The Tempest) or inside jokes (Jason is the name Ro used to refer to my favourite shoe salesman aka the cute guy who works at Journeys). Sometimes it’s a name that I really like that ends up being connected to something else I love (I christened Finn before I started watching Adventure Time, but now – SPOILER ALERT – I named his boyfriend Blake so that together they can be…wait for it… FINN AND BLAKE. I laughed.).

For the rest of my life, these names will always be connected to my first novel. When I hear the name Olivia, I’m automatically going to think of a pretty, popular, and generally not-very-nice cheerleader.

Maybe, if Fireworks is ever published, other people will respond to the names the same way. And maybe one day a new author will appropriate my names for their characters.

(I don’t know about you, but now I’m singing “The Circle of Life”. In my head, of course.)

http://malialitman.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/lion-king-funny-sun-setting.jpg

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