In the first novella of Paul Theroux’s The Elephanta Suite, he introduces the Blundens. Already I see them blundering. Should I? What’s in a name anyway, when it comes to naming characters in fiction? I collected some do-and-don'ts to see how the names in Bombay Trilogy stack up:
Do: have a name say something about the character's parents.
In my characters’ neighborhood, the father’s name and family home is incorporated into the child’s name. So my boy Ramesh, whose father is Sambashivan from Trichur, is called T. Sambashivan Ramesh.
Do: choose a name to suit the character's personality, who they are, where they come from or where they are going.
Shiva fits the bill here. The matriarch of the family is named for the god of creation and destruction, whose many arms embrace and repel simultaneously. The name underscores the character’s culture shock and her resistance to change, and foreshadows her reconciliation with her daughter-in-law.
Do: let a name give clues about your character's background.
The Sambashivans are South Indian Brahmins, and the name reflects that. Ask anybody.
Don’t: fill your story with names that sound alike or that start with the same letter.
Hmmm. We’ve got Ramesh, Alice, Shiva, Nela, and Sam. Ram and Sam do have something in common, sound-wise, but they ARE father and son.
I picked the minor characters' names from my mental list of common South Indian names. "We are all named for royalty or gods, " one character reminds another. That simplified things for me -- they are all of the Venkatarajapuramgovindaswamyshankaranarayan variety.
Do: alternate lengths of names.
Done! See above.