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Naming Places

On Monday, we talked a little about naming characters. What about the other names in your stories? What about names of buildings, streets, companies? Sometimes choosing these names is even more difficult than naming characters, because place names and business names carry an even heavier weight of history and tradition in their meaning.

Take, for example, a character named Ludwig. Just knowing the name, one might wonder if the story perhaps takes place in Germany or is about a German family. But maybe that character is the child of a man who was misunderstood and unhappy until he heard Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, when his entire world turned around and thus he named his son after the composer as a way to pay homage to a turning point in his life. Or maybe the character’s mother wanted to choose a name that sounded smart and important. There can be a reason for the choice of a name that goes beyond typical socio-economic or ethnic traditions.

Not so for place names. The name of a school may be simply the town’s name, or may be in honor of a great educator or President or other person in history…or perhaps after the school’s founder, in which case you have a double-duty of choosing a name that represents a person and a place. Street names are also likely to reflect the type of area. A downtown business district is more likely to have numbered streets, whereas a wealthy subdivision is likely to have poetic street names that are of a single theme.

Then there are company names. A company name can be used to convey a message about the type of company as well as about the relationship of that company to the rest of the story and the characters. Office Space’s “Initech” is a great example of a software company name that is so non-descript it could be any company of that nature in that era (which often had tech-y sounding names that meant absolutely nothing), which is precisely the message the film was attempting to send.

What are some of your favorite place or company names?

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Posted on July 18, 2012, in Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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