Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Kimber Chin | What’s In A Name?

May 8, 2008
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet”. Ummm… okay, Shakespeare. That’s why Juliet fell in love with Romeo and not some guy named Fred. Yeah, somehow, I’m not buying the names are meaningless sales spiel.

Why? Because names aren’t meaningless. They’re important. That’s why most parents spend the entire nine months trying to decide on one (I, on the other hand, was named after the toilet paper and one of my brothers was named after a box of tissues). They set expectations, invoking feelings and passions.

For the rest of your life.

I know this first hand. Who do you picture when you hear the name Kimber Chin (or, if you prefer, the Dr. Seuss version Kim Chin)? Perhaps Lucy Liu from Charles Angels and Kill Bill? Or Ziyi Zhang from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Or…

I’ll stop naming gorgeous Asian actresses now before I get depressed. You see, that’s SO not me. Even the top Photoshop expert in the world (i.e. my hubby or so he thinks) can’t make me look like Lucy Liu. I had to marry to get that last name. My background is Irish, my two sisters are redheads, and I’m paler than Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

Names are even more important for our fictional characters. I doubt any of the great characters in fiction were named carelessly.

There’s the wicked George Wickham in Jane Austen‘s Pride And Prejudice. I just knew with a name like that, he’d turn out to be a baddie.

What about Elena Michaels from Kelley Armstrong‘s Bitten? She couldn’t be plain Ellen Michaels, no, because there is something just a tad bit off with her. Hhhmmm… like being a werewolf, perhaps?

Dr. Jekyll, from Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is also betrayed by his name. When I hear Jekyll, I think jackal, the animal, the beast. Not exactly good doctor material.

Sisters are extremely interesting. The D’Averette sisters from Margaret Moore‘s King John series share a surname emphasizing their ties to their land (De meaning of or from). However, they have very different and distinct first names, stamping each character as an individual. Lady Adelaide, with her almost masculine given name, is a woman of strength and bravery. As for the second sister? I’ve never met a meek Gillian, dull appearance or not. Lady Elizabeth or Lizette, with her amateur theatrics, won’t be tied down to a single moniker. Margaret Moore doesn’t say so but I’d bet big money Lizette is a Gemini.

In my first novel, Breach Of Trust, quiet, unassuming Anne James has the plainest name I could think of. Or almost does. She isn’t a Smith, is she? No. I thought James more royal and, as our hero, the oh-so-French Philippe Lamont, can attest to, Anne can be a royal pain in the… well, never mind. She appears mild mannered (the Anne) but is truly fierce (the James). Contrasts.

What fictional names do you find interesting or amusing (Dumbledore, anyone?)? Do you try to guess the character’s personality by his or her name? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Kimber Chin
Author of Breach Of Trust (Champagne Books)

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