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By Any Other Name
Mary or Trixie – It Makes a Difference

Parents put a great deal of thought into naming their newborn son or daughter, understanding that a name is often the very first thing a stranger learns about you. An offbeat name can make a child the target of bullying. Later on, a name that’s too cute can be off-putting to a potential employer.

You should give the same amount of attention to naming your characters—after all, they’re your literary babies.

Did you know that Charles Dickens considered naming Tiny Tim “Puny Pete”?

That Sherlock Holmes’ assistant was almost named “Ormond Sacker”?

That Scarlett O’Hara’s name was originally “Pansy”?

Names can act as shorthand between you and your readers, giving the reader clues about the character’s age, where they’re from, what era they’re from, and what image they want to present to the world.

For instance, what initial impressions would you have about a character whose name is Elizabeth, but she calls herself Betsy? Liz? Beth? Lizzie?

What are your first thoughts about a couple named Byron and Madeleine? How about Trey and Madison?

It may take a while to decide on the perfect names for your characters—and you may change them as the story evolves. But those small choices are among the most important you’ll make.

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