Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's in a Name?

So I was gonna totally rant about how underloved pyrokinetics are (as my friend Annika pointed out, they all seem to be evil) but then I had this very nice Twitter conversation with this lady whom I don't know about names. Names are very hard to get down in a character. They've got to be perfect. Names practically define their character and personality! The ambience in the room changes when people look to that character.

I've seen plenty of common names. Just look at the Top 100 Names for Girls (and Boys, for that matter) as seen HERE and HERE. See how Sophia is at the top for girls? Now look at my MC for Death and Other Things I Fail At.

Oh, look at that. It's Sophia.

I swear I didn't mean to do that.

My point is not to go out of your way giving unique names to your characters. I mean, if the time period calls for it I doubt you'd name a 1820's Englishman Jay Javelpin. Well, you could, but it would be odd. My point is to name the character what seems to fit best for them. Sophia, to me, means bubbly and excitable, while at the same time curious and intelligent. The actual meaning of the name is wisdom, although I don't go basing my characters soley on the meaning of their name (like my own name, Jasmine, which means absolutely nothing).

I guess it's partially why naming characters is so hard. Authors are so concerned about not having the same name as everybody else ('cause honestly, who else is going to name their character Percy after Rick Riordan made him famous?) that they go out of their way to think up a name that'll fit. I'm guilty of it, I admit, but naming was always more about the personality of the character than trying to be original. Take the nameless little girl in Way to Kill. Yeah, I still haven't found a name for her yet. She's mute and never talks, she has wicked skills with knives, she's only twelve years old and she's Native American. What I want to call her is Jasmine, but that's my name. So even though Jasmine fits, I have reservations naming her that, because then won't people think I'm conceited to call a character my own name?

(Not that that stopped Jay Clark, but still).

So anyway, I don't know what I'll do. I just wanted to point out that having unique names isn't everything to the plot of the book. Nor is basing your character's personality on the unique names you picked. It's kind of a meet-in-the-middle sort of thing, you know? Names need to fit the personality, the ethnicity, the mood of the novel. Names are important, you know. They're what sets the groundwork for the characters to become famous someday. They become synonyms for great (or terrible) books-- like Percy, Cullen, Jace, Katniss. Those names we'll remember... and not just because they're unique.

Thoughts? What are some names you like to use? What are some names you see often?


  1. *lady whom you don't know waves enthusiastically*

    I think the number one thing I factor in to names are what I perceive as the connotations of said name. An old-fashioned sort of character might have a biblical name, a hot guy will have a "hot guy" name (oh, you totally know what I mean), etc. I love when the meaning works too, but for me, that's secondary.

    Another thing is that I LOVE nicknames. I think the nicknames characters use for each other can tell you so much about their relationships. As such, I gravitate toward those names that are easy to shorten, preferably in more than one way, like Alexandra (who's Ally to most, Al to her boyfriend, A to her best friend, AlGal to her dad, etc.). My favorite character of mine is named Everett, but she goes by Evie.

    Names I see far too often to ever use again definitely include Kate, Matt, and Isabelle. All of which I've totally used before, obviously. Who hasn't?

    1. *girl whom you sorta kinda know now waves back*

      NICKNAMES! OMG I love nicknames. Like my character Luke is actually named Luke but everybody calls him Lucky 'cause he has this annoyingly uncanny ability to get himself in near-death situtations on a daily basis! And Carlos' name is Carlitos, and Billy's nickname is Specs 'cause of his glasses.

      Yeah, you prolly don't know ANY of those people, but I'm just glad you brought up nicknames 'cause I totally would've forgotten about them.

      I forgot to mention Will and Michael and Jordan as popular names I've heard. :P I haven't used ANY OF THOSE for my characters, though, so I'm proud of myself. xD Haha. Thanks for commenting!

    2. Especially not Jordan, right?
      *teases with eyebrows*

      I have a character that I found very difficult to name for quite a while. I only happened upon her name, really. I saw it in a brief reference, and, in my head, she seemed to jump up and scream, "THAT'S MY NAME!!!" I later debated over it because of the definition, but at this point I have comfortably settled to it. At one point I also called her by another short name, and I suppose it could still work as a nickname, so I'm happy about that.
      Why am I ranting. :P

      I found some really helpful material in the post and Dahlia's reply, so thanks!

    3. *shifty eyes* Hush, Jinx, you'll give away my secret! O_O

      Lol that's what happened when I was naming Death and Other Things I Fail At. Just popped into my head one day and I nearly fell out of my chair.

      I think my next post should be on titles... after I rant about how underloved pyrokinetics are (AND IT'S PYROKINETIC, NOT TELEPYRIC).

      YOU'RE WELCOME! Thanks for commenting. xD

  2. I completely agree! Names mean so much. I think my favorite names are Zanna, Emilie, and Jane, though I've yet to find the right characters to match the names.

    1. Don't you just hate it when that happens? I love the name Jade, but I have yet to create a character it fits to. Like, I wanted to name Little-Nameless-Mute-Girl Jade, but it doesn't seem quite right for her, you know? Ugh. Well, I hope you find characters that fit the name soon! Thanks for commenting!