Character Names: An Artistic Device

A technique I use in my fiction is to employ character names to establish mood or emotional ambience. Unless the character name is nakedly suggestive—like Killer or Slaughter—readers don’t react to the meaning of names at the conscious level. But they do at the unconscious level. They see characters with malevolent sounding names as malicious until and unless the characters prove themselves otherwise.

So in Secretocracy, I gave the president’s hand-picked chiefs throughout the bureaucracy names that hint at malfeasance like Hacker, Prowley, Dellaspada (Italian for “of the dagger”), Shafter, Pierce, and Cutter. Characters not involved in the attacks against the protagonist have neutral names.

At the end of the novel, with the November 2018 election that resulted in Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, the illegal shenanigans of the villains are unmasked and the protagonist is exonerated. The villains are not punished but escape government for high-paying jobs elsewhere. I can’t help but ask what will happen with the November 2020 election?

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