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.

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3 Comments on “The power of character names”

  1. Shoqua Says:

    Kelvin is totally a blonde name. And, yeah, Morgan strikes me as being a brunette.

    Morgan means “Sea Warrior” and that is definitely more brunette than blonde. Whereas Kelvin means “friend of ships” which strikes me as very Norse (though the name is Irish) and more likely to be associated with a blonde.

    Or maybe not. 😀

  2. Barbara, Goddess of Champagne Says:

    Yeah. Damn it.
    One of my first-readers opines that Morgan *can too* be a blond. I like her story better: his blondness was important, not in the plot sense so much as in the contrast-to-certain-other-characters sense.

    I am attempting to stand my ground on this one, to hold on to my blond visualization. I mean, he’s the same guy he’s always been, right?

    But if you think that’s going to work, you should hear Wynette talk about the problems she’s had with the character of Sophia in /Blood is Thicker Than Water/. Evidently Sophia is a blonde, but everyone assumes she’s dark-haired. Only Wynette can see her as blonde.

    Damn it.

  3. Shoqua Says:

    Ah, but see, Sophia brings about images of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey. Just about everybody in Turkey is dark haired. Wynette’s just weird 🙂

    Okay, Morgan can be a blond if you want . . . actually, one of my best friends growing up was named Morgan and she was a strawberry blonde.


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