Naming Names

In the beginning, I didn’t care much for my character’s names. They just were, know-what-I-mean? Didn’t serial killers just happen to be called Gacy and Bundy? Didn’t Stallone and Schwarzenegger become action film brands? So what if my sister and I were named after our neighbours? (And why do people find this amusing?)

Names are important, though:

A name is like a tightly-wound DNA molecule, capable of conveying information about characterisation, tone, story and theme.
Elliott & Rossio

I’ve long since run out of first and middle names of friends, family and acquaintances. Unlike John August, no streetnames I can remember or think of lend themselves to being affixed to my puppets characters.

I have to work at it. But maybe I learnt from the best:

INT. LOUNGE, MY PARENTS’ HOUSE – EVENING – SOME TIME AGO

My MOTHER cradles her week-old grandson, DAVID (not his real name), and makes coo-ing noises. My FATHER peers at the packet of swaddling and wrinkles.

FATHER

What’s his name?

ME

(proudly)

David.

My mother wrinkles her nose.

MOTHER

What sort of name is David?

ME

‘S a great name – direct and unambiguous.

My father nods slowly and, after a beat, clears his throat:

FATHER

(to child)

We will call you... Safune.

DAVID/SAFUNE

Gurgle.

MOTHER

(to Father)

He likes that.

ME

(getting a little cross)

What’s wrong with David?

Safune and his grandparents ignore the recently-minted father and leave the room.

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2 Replies to “Naming Names”

  1. I’m terrible with names. I find it so difficult for names to settle on characters, they almost always seem provisional. Takes a couple of drafts before they seem bedded in…

  2. i suspect i spend as much time playing with character names as i used to finding the right font in which to have the title on the cover sheet – ‘s important: ArialBlack for a thriller, Chalk for a romantic comedy, or Sand for an indigenous horror…. alas, Celtx is pretty no-frills with fonts – ‘s all Courier.

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