Muse Monday: Why do we use names?

For me, the hardest part of writing three novels was naming everybody. There were times that I felt like I’d used every name ever written and then some. I know I didn’t come anywhere close, but that’s what it felt like to me. Even though I know I did totally make up one name. Different blog post. Never mind.

Anyway, I started having conversations with people about character’s names. A remarkable number of people have told me that they read books without really paying attention to characters’ names. They’ll actually put a name with the character once the movies come out and they hear the names over and over again.

After I’d had some of these conversations, I had an interesting thing happen at a restaurant: My family went out for supper/dinner. (The last meal of the day, whatever you want to call it.) We were seated at our table, given our menus, and then the waiter walked up. “Good evening, folks. My name is Jeff, and I’ll be your server tonight.” I automatically looked at his name tag, because I was spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the way names were spelled. His name tag said “Jessica.”

I’m pretty sure I cocked my head over to the side. “Well, that’s an interesting way to spell Jeff.” He looked down at it, looked back at me and grinned. “One of the waitresses and I are doing a social experiment. We switched name tags for the day, just to see how many people noticed.”

Of course, I had to ask him how many people had noticed.

We were the first table! He’d been at work for eight hours, on a weekend, and we were the first table who had noticed that his name tag said “Jessica.”

Why do we writers even bother naming our characters? I’m really tempted to write another novel that goes something like this:

“Hero went on a walk with secondary male lead, walking right past the house of throwaway female one that we’re going to mention once in a flashback and then she’ll never come up again.”

It might work. Then again, maybe not. I think it would be awfully fun to try, though!

3 thoughts on “Muse Monday: Why do we use names?

  1. Missed this post. I complained to John and Jed’s mom about how they don’t use names in the book Guess How Much I Love You. The characters are Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare….

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