Accordingly to her own accounts,Margaret Mitchell lived with the name “Pansy O’Hara” for ten years while she wrote her classic novel, Gone With The Wind. It was only the day before the novel was to go to print , according to literary folklore, that the name “Scarlett” was substituted for “Pansy.” When you look at it, “Frankly, Pansy, I don’t give a damn.” just doesn’t have the same snarky ennui without “Scarlett”.
In early drafts of Truman Capote‘s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly was named Connie Gustafson. I mean, really, can you imagine the calling card,” Connie Gustafson, traveling.” Somehow Connie Gustafson enjoying her coffee and donut at Tiffany’s window , just doesn’t cut with the same tragic glamour that Holly Golightly does.
We writers worry a lot about the names of our characters. None of us really believe what Shakespeare had to say when Juliet asked,”What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The real truth is, a name means a helluvalot.
It is one of the many windows into the heart of a character. Of course, it’s not the only window but it’s a big window. If the character is flat, you can call the character “Indiana Jones” and it ain’t gonna help.
Side note: As Truman Capote did with many of his “fictional characters”, it is believed that “Holly” is based on several different women, including Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona Chaplin (who dated J D Salinger but married Charlie Chaplin) , Carol Matthau and super model, Suzy Parker. His own mother was also an inspiration to the iconic icon. Both Holly and Nina Capote were born in the rural south with similar “hick” birth names (Holly was born Lula Mae Barnes in Texas, Nina Capote was born Lillie Mae Faulk in Alabama). Both left the husbands they married as teenagers , moved to New York, and both achieved “café society” status through relationships with wealthier men.