Naming the Characters in No Good Wife

25 Jan

When creating characters, be they in a short story, screenplay, or game, I have several options for naming them. Which one I choose depends on the importance of the characters in the story and the tone of the work. Names are important. In a visual novel, they are shown when that character speaks, and become one with the character itself. I named the main characters in No Good Wife using what TV Tropes calls Meaningful Names.

Meaningful names are names that relate to the characters in some way. A classic example is Oedipus, whose name means “swollen foot”. That name calls back to an unfortunate incident that occurred when the king was a baby.

A baby girl in pink smiling at a pink doll. The doll has her hair in braids. I wonder what their names are.

I definitely won’t spend as much time deciding on a name for a character as I will deciding on a name for my actual child, but sometimes it can feel that way.

For a more recent example, look at Dr. Wily and Dr. Light from the Mega Man games. A person can take a good guess at which character is the villain without knowing anything else about the series.

The main trio in my game don’t have names that are as on the nose, but I still put a lot of time into researching the perfect name for each of them. What do their names mean? Let’s start with the lady of the house.

Esther is named after the Biblical queen. I liked the idea that Queen Esther was able to control and manipulate people around her at a time when women had equal value to two cows and an ox. She was powerful, even if her power is overshadowed by the males. The book containing her story is the Book of Esther. It’s one of two books named for a woman. The other book, the Book of Ruth, was the origin of Esther’s middle name.

Wood is Esther’s maiden name. This name reflects a variety of qualities, including the strength of a tree and a desire for growth. It also sounds like “would”, though that was not something I was conscious of while choosing that name. My original reason for choosing this name was much simpler. The Biblical Ether was also known as Hadassah, which is a type of plant.

Farris means “iron”, “brave man”, or “stone”, depending on who’s talking. All of those definitions reflect the strong, stoic nature I wanted the character to possess. His middle name, Jonathan, suited the rhythm of the rest of his name, as it only appears when his name is said in full. It is also a common male name in the UK.

Fitzgerald literally means “son of Gerald”. Gerald means “ruler’s spear”, so when put together the name can be read as “son of the ruler’s spear.” I’ve heard that the prefix “Fitz” was sometimes used when naming children born out of wedlock. I never followed up on that tidbit of information, but it stayed in my mind.

Virgil was another name I chose because of its origin, though some anthroponymists (people who study names) debate whether there is sufficient evidence to choose one. Those that do offer meanings like “strong”, and “staff bearer”. Virgil is also the academic name for the author of a Roman epic*, and I always envisioned Virgil as a creative man.

Hereward can be read as the Old English words for “army” and “protector”. I considered Virgil’s surname to be less important than Farris and Esther’s, so I went with more traditionally masculine imagery.

Marcus‘s name relates to Mars, the Roman god of war. As Marcus was primarily a soldier character and a warrior, it fit him well.

The neighbours are the models of social norms, so I wanted them to have plain names. Originally, they were only known as Mr. and Mrs. Brown. When I fleshed them out, I decided to give them the common English names of William and Mary.

Choosing names for characters is a matter I take seriously. Obviously, the amount of time I spend on a name is indicative of the character’s importance in the story. I’m not going to spend ten hours on the name of an incidental character.


 

We hope you appreciate this insight into a small part of the creation of No Good Wife. Thank you for following our progress.

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