I can’t remember precisely where I heard this fascinating piece of information, but I think I it was in an interview with George Lucas. He said he was looking for a name for his main antagonist in Star Wars that would conjure up images of a “Dark Father”. The rest, as they say, is cinematic history.
When you consider some of the great character names from film and literature, they tend to have something in common….their name says a lot about them.
Don’t believe me? Let’s do an exercise. Find a piece of scrap paper and your favorite writing instrument. Ready? Ok, now pretend you’re hearing these names for the first time and immediately scribble three or four words that enter your mind. Here we go!
Take a look at your list. Certainly, you’re opinion has been tainted as you most likely know these famous characters. Even so, just their names conjure a basic template of who they are. Take Apollo Creed, the World Heavyweight Champion from Rocky. His name just sounds like a god, a supreme entity chisled out of stone. A superior creature who looks down on the peasants, especially Rocky Balboa, who isn’t even worth the salt in his sweat.
Let’s take a look at some more recent character names, which foreshadow their fate. It’s purely coincidental (I think) that both of these characters have had their stories played on AMC, possibly the greatest cable network that consistently airs high quality series.
The symbolism here is so obvious it could have easily become comedic, but series creator Vince Gilligan is so talented, no one saw how far from “white” (pure, clean) Walter would travel.
The “double D” alliteration is a nice touch, but what does Don’s name tell us about his character? Spoiler Alert! Don really isn’t Don at all. As anyone who has watched the series is aware, his real name is Dick Whitman. Hiding behind the name of a dead man, Dick is able to cover up his past. “Draping” reality from his new life, the character also seems to find it easy to mask other areas of even this new, false universe. A truly fascinating character, maybe the most intriguing ever to be showcased in an episodic series.
So, how can you use this information when it comes to naming your characters? When I sat down to write “Condition of Return”, I was very cognizant as to the importance of characters’ names. If you haven’t read my script, that’s fine, you will still be able to understand the thought process behind it all. For those of you who have invested time in my work, first off, thank you! Secondly, I think you’ll find this brief breakdown of how I arrived at the names of the main characters to be quite interesting.
The protagonist, the entire story is propelled by her decisions. Who, arguably, was the first female decision maker? You get it!
Dr. Don Thomas
The disgraced psychologist, tasked with diagnosing Eve. He acts as the filter in which the audience experiences the story. Just as the viewer, he has a hard time swallowing Eve’s tale….he doubts…his last name is Thomas….I don’t have to connect those dots, do I?
Wow, I just realized, this might be one of the only character names that doesn’t have some type of religious connotation attached to it. That being said, he is the head FBI employee in charge of Eve while she is being interviewed. Prior to meeting her, Dr. Thomas is told by Scarpetto that this sit down is purely a formality. The doctor is to find Eve sane and fit to stand trial. Scarpetto reminds him that out of all the doctors available for this chore, Don was selected….by him….he “created” him, giving his career life many years ago. Now, Scarpetto holds the key to Dr. Thomas’ rebirth. In essence, it’s Scarpetto that is pulling the strings….
I’m not going to divulge where that name came from. I think it would be fun to have you, the reader, send in your comments and ideas. What do you think? Where did I come up with this character’s name? Any thoughts you have on naming your creations? What are some of the best monickers and traits you’ve written? Let’s get some interaction going, what do you say?