Thursday, September 8, 2011

It's My Book! What’s the Name Got to do With it?

For some time I’ve wondered how other people come up with their character names and as a writer I choose my names carefully, hoping that the name I give will show something about the character and will still have an appealing quality over time. 

Now I’m wondering just how much the name really matters and I thought I’d send it out into the blogosphere for answers. 

Here’s the question: Is it the name that makes the character stick in your brain so long it repeats like constant pendulum in your head, or is it the character that makes the name attractive? I realize this is a little like – which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Before you answer, think of this. Would Edward and Bella still be as romantically potent if their names were Buford and Ethel? I’ve truly struggled with this one, because Stephanie Meyer did a great job writing believable characters, but I don’t think I would’ve kept reading if those were the characters names. Honestly.

Buford and Ethel?

How about, Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, better known as Scarlett O'Hara? 

Rhett Butler, personally I think this name rocks, but I’m still not sure if it’s the character that made the name, or the other way around.

Here’s a list, see how you think you would’ve felt if the character had the alternative…

Captain Jack Sparrow = Captain Hommer Pigeon 

Captain Hommer Pigeon?

Tristan and Isolde = Tim and Izzie
Indiana Jones = Herman Jones
Elizabeth Bennett = Linda Barney
Elinor Dashwood = Ellie Dishtowel
Katniss = Katrina
Peeta = Paul
Romeo and Juliet = Ron and Julie

Okay, you get the idea. But what of the characters with perfectly normal names that are still so amazing?

Harry Potter
Lena Holloway
Claire Beauchamp
Oliver and Jennifer
William Darcy

Just to name a few, there are thousands out there.

So, are you ready?

One lucky commenter will be chosen at random to win  
The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

What is the weirdest name from the literature you love and why do you love it? Is it the uniqueness of the name or the character that makes you love it?


  1. Okay, so this probably isn't the "weirdest" , but it's one that has always stood out in my mind.

    Margo Roth Spiegelman from John Green's PAPER TOWNS. It's probably the fact that he uses her full name throughout the entire book rather than just calling her, "Margo", so it made it stick out, but I can't imagine her as anything else, ever.

  2. When I'm looking for a book, I am very picky with the names of the characters. If the two main characters' name are really bad, I won't even finish reading the synopsis, let alone start the book! However, if a character has a less than desirable name (for me), but the character him/herself is awesome, I think that is when the name makes the character instead of the other way around.

    I read a paranormal romance with a character named Sparkle Stardust! She sounded like a stripper, but she was really a cosmic troublemaker!

  3. Steph, That is weird, but I get how it could make the character really stick in your mind.

    Elaine, thanks for the laugh! I scared my cat. Now I'll be on the look out for a cosmic trouble-making stripper! LOL

    I'm glad I'm not the only one turned off by really bad name choices.

  4. One of my absolute favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird and I've always loved the names: Boo, Jem, Dill, Atticus, Calpurnia, Scout...there are none misnomered. Okay, I'd have to say my favorite would be Atticus. The children don't call him Dad or Father, just "Atticus." It never seems cheeky or disrespectful even though the setting is a time and place where manners and etiquette still matter. It's appropriate because it denotes all that he is--kind, wise, proper, strong, and right. :~)

  5. Awesome name DeeAnn! Thanks for sharing.

  6. So true that names are important, but I do think in some ways, the character makes the name. Before Twilight, Edward was considered an ordinary, blah-ish name, at least for a smoldering love interest. Though I don't think Bulford could've cut it either,:). Sometimes unusual names distract me from the story. I just read Sarah Dessen's first book, That Summer and the boy's names was Sumner. Yeah.