The power of character names
This week I passed 125K words on The Affairs of Dragons. It has evolved considerably, in a number of different ways, from my original conception of the work — even if you don’t take into account the drafts that came before this one, which are numerous. Today, after mulling it over for a while, I have changed the name of an important secondary character: the character formerly known as Kelvin has become Morgan, for reasons which matter to the plot but would constitute a spoiler. I’ve given a lot of thought to the change, and to the new name, and I’m confident in the decision. But in the process I have discovered, more forcefully than ever before, the power of a character’s name.
Of course /what we choose to name a character/ is significant. Names tell us important things about a character even before we get to know him or her. A name conveys gender and culture of origin at the very least; a well-chosen name also brings with it resonances from its accepted meaning and real-life people who share the same name. But today, changing my character’s name changed his hair color.
This is making me crazy. There’s no rational reason for it. But Kelvin was always a blond, through all the drafts. Despite all the physical changes I have wrought in him in the course of supporting the re-backgrounding I did for this draft, his hair color remained the same. But while Kelvin was a blond, Morgan is inexplicably dark-haired.
What the hell is this? The only male Morgan in my experience is Morgan Freeman — and, yeah, he’s dark-haired…but the character formerly known as Kelvin has not changed race. Just his hair.
I am baffled.