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Friday, May 18, 2007

Character Names As Symbols

I came across a perfect example yesterday of an author who used a character's name as symbolism. In Peter Abraham's A Perfect Crime, he named one of the lead characters, a man who discovers his wife in the throes of adultery, Roger. This character, screwed over in the literal and figurative sense of the word, makes for wonderful symbolic characterization the reader can sink into when they're grasping for a foothold in a new story. Even "Jolly Roger," the sarcastic nickname by which another character refers to him on page five, begins to carve out the nature of his character.

In Chasing Midnight, it's no accident that my cast of characters battles the death of the heroine, Emma Parrish, throughout the entire novel. Spelling it "Perish" would not only have been rare and less believable, but would have been too obvious--the equivalent of a symbolic gong instead of a subtle whisper of character.

In Chasing Destiny, the sequel to Chasing Midnight, the hero's name is Cole Renton. Cole is a man trying to escape the shadow of his father, the leader of a rogue, black organization intent on operating outside the lines in the interest of national security. A play on the dark connotation of "coal" not only conveys the hero's own past, but establishes his frame of mind in the novel's opening scenes.

When corralling your cast of characters and browsing your baby and heritage naming books, consider using a name that's not only a label, but also suggests something about the character. What about a salt-of-the-earth hero named Clay? A prostitute named Mona? You get the idea.

Can you think of any examples of character names as symbols?

1 comment:

Sandra Ferguson said...

So, it's still Chasing Destiny, is it? Um, I like it. Of course, I've always been a little partial to that title.

And Cole Renton, I like that too. Can't wait to read him, I mean on the page of course.