What comes first, the character or the character name?

I am one of those people who seldom change the name of a character once it is in the story.  Of course, it does happen, but not often.  Then I started thinking about something else.  (Anything to not have sit and write my story.)  What comes first, the character or the character name?  I’m fairly sure that character comes first, most of the time.  In my latest short story, the names came first.

I started writing a short story, knowing that “Janette” and “Gabrielle” were going to be the protagonists.  (I project this to be a 5000ish word piece, and poor Janette doesn’t get to say or do anything until the last 200 words.)  I, also, knew that the story was to be set 1000 years ago.  I got that.  BUT, with Janette and Gabrielle as the names, did I have to set the story in France?  Do the character’s name define them, before the author can?

I have nothing against France.  I’ve even heard some people visit.  However, I didn’t want to have to deal with that.  In fact, I didn’t (“Don’t” is proper, as I am still writing it.) want to deal with setting in that kind of detail.  So, I’m not going to.  The story starts in a forest, moves to Hades, and then back to the forest.  It’s a short story.  Trees are going to be trees.  A path is a path.  Yes, there is some fauna and flora that will be specific to any region – just not in this story.

(Stream of thought here: Is that what I like about the short story writing?  That I don’t have to develop it that deeply?)

At any rate, to answer my own question, I don’t think it matters one hoot.  As always, as an author whatever you are comfortable with is how you should write it.

(For those of you who stayed up to see if I would make the midnight deadline:  Na, na, na.  I made it.)

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1 Comment

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One response to “What comes first, the character or the character name?

  1. K.L. Gore

    I did not stay up to see if you would make the midnight deadline. Not much can keep me up late (except a good book). But I have to say I struggle with character names, sometimes changing them in a story if the character can’t live up to his or her name. I research last names for their meanings in order to give them the perfect surname. It probably comes to no surprise, then, that creating titles for my books produces much angst and hand-wringing.

    Oh, and if you think you don’t have to develop the details in a short story too deeply, think again, mister! In a short story you have to supply more detail in a shorter span of time than you do in a novel. And I think that you do, and you do it well, so there. 😉

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