You Name It : Ginn Hale

We are delighted to welcome back Ginn Hale. Ginn, as you may or may not know, has agreed to share a post with us every now and then – on anything she wants to share! I honestly think her shopping list would be good to read! Enjoy!


shakespeareThe bard once pondered, “What’s in a name…” and he wasn’t the only author to do so. In fact I know a number of quite talented writers who will spend days—yes, entire days—doing nothing but searching for just the right names, for characters, titles and places, before they commit to a rough outline of their plots or even a single sentence of prose. (Not to mention going out to coffee with me—hence my motivation to help out.)

My friendly suggestions of, “how about what’s-his-name” or “that-one-place” are met with coffee-curdling scorn. As are my suggestions for random words and names I happen to notice. Altoid, Pinster, Fabriano, and Clorox—along with many, many others are nearly always rejected. Too random, too weird, too obviously a cleaning product.

Then I whip open the baby name books. I read out suggestions and encounter positive and negative responses that seem to me, utterly mystifying. Why did “Martin” garner an expression of contempt while “Ewan” inspired a thoughtful pause? “Walter” couldn’t have been more offensive than a ripping fart but inexplicably “Harry” is golden.

Depending upon the writer and the book these examples can be reversed or even altered to fantastic variations. Martimus falls before the might of Ewandeolin, and so on.

But being the sort of author who often works out her plot and setting with placeholder names like—Beard-O, The Stink and that most romantic of monikers “POV”— I’m often confounded by the importance of names in the creation of characters or whole worlds.

I have in fact found myself quoting:
“That which we call rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…”

But would it really?

There is now a fair bit a scientific research that has shown that it wouldn’t. Several studies have found that the actual experience—not just the perception—of pleasure and pain can be altered greatly by a person’s state of mind.

For example, a group of people might be served two glasses of the exact same drink and be informed that one is a cheap knock-off of the other. They sample the drinks and amazingly experience different responses in the pleasure centers of their brains depending upon whether they think—just think—that the drink is the superior or inferior sample. They aren’t just imagining that one tastes better; they’re actually experiencing a more enjoyable drink.

(For a great discussion of this phenomena check out Paul Bloom’s TED talk The Origins of Pleasure.)

With that in mind I find myself returning to all the associations and meanings that names can evoke. So while Ewan and Martin seem much the same to me at first, a few moments of thought and investigation proves them to represent quite different qualities.
Martin is nearly as common as a surname as it is a given name and relates to Mars (or Martinus) and is associated with the god of war. It’s also and anglicized version of the name of a proto-celtic tribe: Mairtine. And depending on who you are it might bring to mind the religious leader Marin Luther or the civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Personally when I hear Martin, I think of Martens, those clever wily little creatures.

Ewan is a common given name in Scotland, means born of the yew tree—which is itself poison but also associated with churches and archery. Then name also conjures up associations with the Scottish god of the glen. The Welsh version of the name is Owen but the Gaelic Euan conveys an entirely different meaning: Red Faced.

ewanOf course being the age and demographic I am, the name Ewan makes me think first of Ewan McGregor.

So obviously the two names –while both common and of European derivation—are not the same. Martin and Ewan might live in the same world but they aren’t interchangeable fellows. Even Ewan and Euan aren’t the same, (Though they could be in the same family). One a god of ancient woods the other a crimson facer blusterer.

And that was when I realized that my fellow authors weren’t just naming a couple characters or places. They were bestowing the inherent qualities of particular names upon their fictional beings and lands. The names have to be perfect because in a way the names are often an encapsulation of the character or kingdom.

That’s not to say that sometimes an author might not want to play against characterization. After all, it sort of gives the game away if all the baddies have evil names like Killingham, Fowler and Mr. Murderer. Not to mention dead giveaways like Vader—meaning Father, or Lupin—a flower, yes but also very much associated with Lupus or Wolf.

So it is indeed a fine line… One I’m going to have to think a bit more about perhaps. If only to avoid writing my next book about dashing young Altoid Clorox and his rivalry with the brooding Lord What-his-Name.


A bit about Ginn : 

Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest, donates blood as a pastime, and tinkers with things.




For a chance to win an e-copy of ANY book from Ginn’s back catalogue all you need to do is comment …. but …. we want a character from any m/m book in each subsequent letter of the alphabet – I kicked it off with the letter A now the next person needs to give me a B, etc etc. Competition closes when we hit Zane, (if only 😛 ) I mean the letter Z. Have fun, and Good Luck!!