Lazy Bee Scripts
Naming Your Characters

Naming Your Characters
'What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.'
- Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet Act 2, Scene 2
Consider the following character description from a play set in 2014:
Violet, Doris and Ethel are sisters in their early sixties.
If this is a contemporary play, set in England, that description should make you uneasy.  To be the right age, the characters would have been born in the 1950s.  In the 1950s, all those three names had gone out of fashion - a trio named Susan, Linda and Christine would be far more likely.
You can check your names here:-
     Boys' Names (Excel Spreadsheet)
     Girls' Names (Excel Spreadsheet)
     Boys' Names (pdf)
     Girls' Names (pdf)
For more food for thought, see the Beewaxing Blog for Why Ian didn't know Jack
How do your names look on the page?
Imagine you are writing a play set in a hotel. The guests include Mr and Mrs Papageorgopoulos and Mr and Mrs Yu.
Now think about how those names look against lines of speech:-
Mr Yu: Hello?  Hello?
Mr Papageorgopoulos: (To Mr and Mrs Yu.) Are you waiting to check in?
Mrs Papageorgopoulos: There does not seem to be anybody around.  We have been standing here for five minutes.
That looks bad because firstly there's a huge blank space in order to indent Mr Yu's speech to the same point as those of the Papageorgopulosses, and secondly because the distinction between Mr Papageorgopulos and Mrs Papageorgopulos is one letter in 19.
  • Try to make your character names of a relatively similar length
  • Try to make your character names short, whilst avoiding abbreviations
  • Consider referring to the likes of Mr and Mrs Papageorgopulos by short first names, even if they are never mentioned in the text

See also
Notes on the perception of imaginary differences for more on naming characters
How old is Susan? for a cautionary tale about names across borders

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