By any other name would smell as sweet."
~ Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
There are some names against which I am already biased. There are some names that have associations for me that may never be able to be broken. But I believe that a name is everything, especially in literature.
We can talk about originality all we want, but names are the most basic way by which we irrevocably tie our characters to a gender, or a nationality, or an image, or a feeling, or a persona.
Juliet, for instance, will always be a simpering, apparently brain-dead, 14-year-old girl who gets what she deserves. And, I'm even friends and colleagues with a very smart, mature, and capable Juliet. Still, "Juliet" can't escape it's association with a stupid, impulsive teenaged girl.
Another perfect example is my name, Samantha. In everything I've ever read or seen (on television or in movies), Samanthas are one of two types of people: extremely bitchy and self-centered sexoholics, or tomboyish, but kind-hearted Sams. I can't think of a single exception to this rule (but please share them with me if you have them!) — oh, except (ha!) Samantha of American Girl fame, but I strongly believe she would have grown up to be one or the other (and can make a case for both if you've got time).
What are some names that strike nerves with you? Or always seem to be associated with particular traits or stereotypes? How do you choose names when you create a character? Do you try to honor or oppose the traits typically associated with the name?
Come on, don't be shy!