The Delights of a Well-Named Character

Posted May 22, 2018 by Amber in Memes / 16 Comments

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I will unabashedly admit I get attached to characters because I like their names.  I read a lot of fantasy and the names get to be quite original and fun.  For example, last week I finished Etiquette & Espionage.  The main character had the delightful moniker “Sophronia” and her dog’s name was Bumbersnoot.  For the record, when asked why he should be called Bumbersnoot, her response was a very adept, “Why not?”.  Yes.  Love it.

I don’t have ten, because I feel like names are very personal and I didn’t want to choose just funny or pretty names.  The name we give something has power – it helps define the way we picture it.  So here are three of my recent reads with powerful, interesting names.

  

Everything about We Were Liars.

While I wasn’t crazy about the book as a whole, the names in We Were Liars had such a melody to them.  It wasn’t just the characters – even the house names were perfect.  Names like Windemere and Cuddledown felt doubled-edged: romantic and somehow dark.  Character names fit well, too.  I particularly liked Johnny – it’s a common name, but fit the character perfectly in his role as Only Male Heir and True-Blue American Boy.  There’s a lot in this book tied to names and memory, and the author did a splendid job with that.

All the Names in The Hate U Give Mean Something.

I was fortunate enough to read a copy of The Hate U Give that included an aside from Angie Thomas discussing why she chose the names she did.  For those of you who haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil too much just in case you have this note in your copy.  Retrospectively knowing her reasons for even the street names added a little more power to the story.  My favorite example?  Tupac has a lot of influence on this book.  Angie noted that if Tupac ever had a daughter, he wanted to name her Starr.  Thus, Starr Carter was born.

References Galore in Ready Player One.

While The Hate U Give offers respectful homage to a legend, the naming in Ready Player One is a little less subtle.  Of course, you’d expect it to be, since the best names are player created avatars with any name they want.  The best of these, of course, is the main character’s handle.  Wade Watts was named by his father because it sounded like a superhero name, and he named his OASIS character Parzival because it was the available spelling of Percival – the knight who discovered the holy grail.  And this works quite well, because as a Gunter, he is looking for the OASIS holy grail.

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What is your favorite character name?

Do you look for meaning in character names as you read?

Have you read a character who shares your name, and what did you think of them?
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16 responses to “The Delights of a Well-Named Character

    • Amber

      I put it off for so long – I’m glad I finally read The Hate U Give! Really, can’t recommend it enough. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it when you get there!

  1. I love all the thought you put into this. And you’re right – names have meaning and they should reflect that. As an example, my daughter’s middle name is the same as my sister’s first name and I’ll be darned if she isn’t exactly like my sister. Hahaha.

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    • Amber

      Oh no, I hope your sister isn’t too much of a handful! 😉

      Fortunately for us, most authors but a lot of thought into what they name their main characters – even if it’s just to make sure it feels right. You can really tell when the name doesn’t fit the character, like it’s instinctual, and it puts a damper on the book.

      • Cholla

        My sister is pretty awesome, so it’s all good!

        I agree – and it is so obvious when a character is misnamed. Even in a fantasy world with made up names!

        • Amber

          Oh gosh yes. Fantasy is the WORST. Either the character names are too basic and don’t fit with the world, or too complicated and then, why bother.

    • Amber

      🙂 Aren’t they so perfect? I really appreciate all the painstaking work Angie Thomas went to in order to make sure they were truly *perfect*.

  2. I love the names in Ready Player One! And yes they are very not subtle haha but it works with the plot! In fantasy there is a fine line between cool unique new names and keyboard smash names. Sometimes they are just to hard to understand! And Bumbersnoot seems like an awesome name for a dog!

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    • Amber

      RIGHT?! Especially for a little mechanical daschund. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Keyboard smash names are the worst. How is it that so many fantasy worlds value the letters “Z” and “K” in so many of their names… often right next to each other!

    • Amber

      Thank you! They’re all pretty decent reads, definitely recommend them if you haven’t read them yet!

  3. Ohhh how could I have forgotten about Bumbersnoot! I absolutely loved Bumbersnoot and his name. It’s just cute and delightful and it gives off a GREAT vibe.
    I didn’t know that about THUG, that’s so interesting! I now wish I had that note in my copy

    • Amber

      My personal copy didn’t include it either! I’m really glad I ended up reading the library copy – gave things so much meaning. 🙂

  4. I love character names that have interesting meanings, especially linked to mythology and legend. Sadly, I’ve not read about any characters with my nickname (Tizzy) or real name (Anstice).

    • Amber

      I don’t think I’ve read any, either. But now I’ll keep a look out for characters names Tizzy/Anstice! One of us may need to write one….