By Ali Cross
Shakespeare said “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But I disagree.
Any parent who has tried to name their newborn child understands. There are so many factors to consider. Can this name be shortened into something offensive or embarrassing? Will granting a newborn the moniker of their famous ancestor be a curse rather than a blessing? And then there is the intangible—will this name reflect who this child is to the world around him?
My parents got it all wrong when they named me. At the recent LDStorymaker conference, I had many discussions with people about how I never should have been named Sandra, but Alexandra and as soon as I could, I adopted the name change. I’ve been Alexandra since I was nineteen years old and began life on my own.
I love my name—the name I gave myself—because it allows me to be everything that I am: Alexandra when I’m performing opera. Alex for when I worked in business. Ali for my daily life, my friends, and for my writing. Even Al to some of my very closest friends. I am all of these people. I am so not a Sandy. If you’ve met me, you’ll probably agree.
It’s the same thing for us writers—except we have many, many children to name.
We need to consider several elements when choosing names for our characters: What is the genre? Time period? Place? Who is this character and what do we want to have known about them before we’ve actually said anything about them.
For instance, Harry Potter is a very ordinary name. Even if you knew the etymology of the name, you’d figure out that Harry’s ancestors were at one time potters. Hardly royalty. And yet, Harry goes on to be a prince of sorts, the inheritor of a grand legacy of magic. So his name, benign as it is, is a herald of what is to come.
A name says so much about a person, and about a fictional character. Whenever I hear or see a name that I think is unique or I just like, I add it to my database of names. I also love Name Meanings.com a site that lists the names and their meanings from several cultures.
So, with all due respect to Mr. Shakespeare, I think the rose is perfectly named and should it be named something else, like daisy, I think it should smell entirely different—like a daisy.