Monday, November 11, 2013

Name, Please

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” 
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I love names. I like unique, creative, names, I like foreign names, I like old fashioned names. My father (and probably many other people) doesn't understand my feelings about the names of my characters. He feels that I would make like easier for both my readers and myself if I changed Brogan to Bob and Sonja to Susan.
I'm sorry, I can't. A Sonja is not at all the same person as a Susan.

Susan is a middle-aged woman who works in the office during the week and goes running on the weekends. She has straight, cosmopolitan, respectable hair. She is dependable, charitable, and a Democrat.
Or maybe she's a English schoolgirl. In that case she belongs to C.S. Lewis.

Sonja is Russian or maybe Scandinavian. In whatever setting she is in, she is a rebel. She is a part of the resistance during World War Two, or she is the only person who will talk to that one girl at school. She is a spy or a journalist or the first woman doctor. She doesn't care what people think. She is determined, intelligent, and she walks her own path.
Sonja is not Susan.

Nor is a Brogan anything like a Bob.
A "Bob" is an older man, American, who probably owns a motorhome and watches the Superbowl on TV. Or Bob is a young grocery store clerk, amiable, ambitious, and enthusiastic. Someday he will be the Fred Meyer's store manager. Bob is suburban and average.

Brogan, on the other hand, may be in his fifties but he is still as fierce and intense as he was when he was younger. It's hard to believe, but he's even more stubborn now than he was when he was fifteen. He's been fighting the "cursed English" all his life and yet they still pollute his Irish homeland. He wears skins and homespun and his shoulder length dark hair is rough and tangled. He's the chief of the clan and if his son ever measures up to his expectations, he will in turn become chief and take his turn in fighting English oppression. He may kind of know that the fight is hopeless but he will never give up.

Brogan is not Bob.

(If your name is Bob or Susan, I apologize. Your name does not really define you. You can be intense, Irish, stubborn, rebellious, or Scandinavian. You can give other people the opportunity to see "Bob" and "Susan" as very different people.)