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shebitme
08-27-2008, 09:32 AM
a girl reading a draft of my book said, "i dont like this character's name (Linus). It doesnt really fit his personality." (Basically the name linus sounds dorky to her, and the character isn't really dorky at all).

this got me thinking, would this bother you? I am inclined to ignore the above criticism because in real life, peoples names dont necessarily match their personality; they were given at birth and people's names have little effect on their development, IMHO, compared to nurture and nature.

personally i like to choose names that are symbolic in some way, but not necessarily totally matching. I chose linus because he has a rigid personality, like a line. And he ultimately walks a balanced path in life; he walks a line. (this is never even remotely spelled out for the reader, it's just my thoughts in choosing the name).

anyway, does it bother you when a character's name doesnt fit your stereotype for it?

My personal thoughts are that the reader's stereotypes are their problem. The character's name is Linus. Deal with it.

maestrowork
08-27-2008, 09:39 AM
to me, that's just dumb. We don't get to choose our own names (usually) when we were babies. So of course Linus could be a dork, or a President, or an astronaut, or a homeless man. To me, trying to fit a name to the personality of the character as you write it is rather silly. I think people who say "she's so sweet, and her name should be Katie instead of Sue" or "he's so handsome so you should name him Cary instead of Bill" should keep their mouths shut.

Personally, I don't pay attention unless there are true conventions in the naming scheme -- something Fantasy writers tend to do. Snape, Malfoy, Draco, etc. etc.

JJ Cooper
08-27-2008, 12:21 PM
I'll have to disagree a little with Ray on this one.

I consider names in accordance with age. I have two kids (and one on the way) and there are a lot of names my wife and I come across that we consider 'too old' for this new generation. It's the same for my characters.

In my five year old's class there are two girls named Xanthia. I wouldn't consider this name for a twenty year old female character today because I think it is a name for a different generation.

I also think your main character's name is very important. Take Hieronymus Bosch from the Michael Connelly collection. His name is unique and everbody calls him Harry. Those who know his real name and recognise who he was named after, have an obvious understanding of the art world.

First impressions can be based on a name. At a job once I exchanged emails with a Tracy for a while and assumed he was a she until I met him.

Personalities may have nothing to do with the names we are given, but first impressions may do. Especially when we meet a character for the first time in a book. Remember, we need to hook the agent/publisher/reader real quick. Names can be an important factor IMO.

JJ

Ms Hollands
08-27-2008, 12:27 PM
I'm sure there was a study that proved our personalities are in fact influenced by our names. For example, when people meet a Linus, they probably have connotations in their minds with something to do with Snoopy or expect a geek (apparently), and this subconsciously comes through in their conversation, which, over a long period of time, effects Linus' personality.

Hmmm, I'll see if I can google it...

dpaterso
08-27-2008, 12:30 PM
My personal thoughts are that the reader's stereotypes are their problem. The character's name is Linus. Deal with it.
Linus is the kid with the security blanket in "Peanuts" who's always rambling on about the Great Pumpkin. So the name, for me, comes with baggage. (Posted before I read April's post.)

-Derek

Ms Hollands
08-27-2008, 12:35 PM
Here's one: http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,6024,00.html

...not sure if I trust a Dr Spock on the web, but it makes for some food for thought, whether you believe it or not!


...and here's one that you can test your name against:
http://www.asiaflash.com/names/personality_name.shtml
(...but beware — it asks for an e-mail address: I used my 'spam e-mail address' which I never check).
It was right with most of the stuff about my name, but not all of it.

dpaterso
08-27-2008, 12:47 PM
...and here's one that you can test your name against:
http://www.asiaflash.com/names/personality_name.shtml
(...but beware it asks for an e-mail address: I used my 'spam e-mail address' which I never check).
It was right with most of the stuff about my name, but not all of it.
Nicely written blurb but oddly enough it forgot to mention my primary personality traits, namely "twisted, cynical bastard."

Moderators! Moderators!

-Derek

Deccydiva
08-27-2008, 01:01 PM
I stick to names that are popular where my novel is based. I'm a bit of a traditionist, some of the modern names especially for girls smack of the make believe celebrity world which I hold in such contempt. Luckily, most Irish families are still traditional and most names reflect this.
As for Linus, my only exposure to this has been through the Snoopy cartoons.

Mumut
08-27-2008, 01:56 PM
I wouldn't think of a character called Linus as a serious person. Writers don't have movement (like facial expressions), lateral information (chatter about other people from friends) etc to help give the reader an impression of the character of a person. So every word you write counts. And the name you use is vital. If it holds meaning for most other people you should take that into account. So a high society young lady in London's monied class called Maud would sound wrong. A knight in the hundred years war called Kyle would be just wrong.

And don't forget. The reader usually learns a characters name early, mostly before they can form an opinion from their actions. So I think a name is really important and if people questioned a name of one of my characters, I'd look into it seriously.

Priene
08-27-2008, 02:06 PM
I wouldn't think of a character called Linus as a serious person.

When I think of Linus I think of Linus Torvalds, inventor of Linux and a near-genius.

bpmann
08-27-2008, 04:05 PM
or Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner.

JimmyB27
08-27-2008, 04:23 PM
Here's one: http://www.drspock.com/article/0,1510,6024,00.html

...not sure if I trust a Dr Spock on the web, but it makes for some food for thought, whether you believe it or not!


...and here's one that you can test your name against:
http://www.asiaflash.com/names/personality_name.shtml
(...but beware it asks for an e-mail address: I used my 'spam e-mail address' which I never check).
It was right with most of the stuff about my name, but not all of it.
Here's a non-Spock one that Scott Adams linked to in his blog today - http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2005/08/dennis_the_denv.html
Apparently, people are more likely to become Dentists if their name is Dennis.

maestrowork
08-27-2008, 04:43 PM
None of the above has anything to do with the person's personality, IMHO.

First impression is great, but "assumptions" are not. When I meet a character named Linus I don't immediately think Peanut's Linus with a security blanket, or Linus Pauling for that matter. And I don't assume that's the character's personality. Sure, propriety is important. You would not want to call a Beverly Hills debutante Maud because, well, her parents would never call her that. Or you wouldn't name JJ's children Mildred because JJ would not have allowed it.

(Perhaps the character's name should have more to do with their parents' backgrounds and personalities!)


Maybe your readers would immediately assign personality to a name they first encounter. That's fine, but that's also part of the fun for a writer: to break cliches or stereotypes. So you think Linus would be an insecure kid? He turns out to be an overbearing President of the United States. And if my reader say "Oh, but he's the President; he can't be called Linus!" I'd say, deal with it.

JJ Cooper
08-27-2008, 05:02 PM
Understand where you are coming from, Ray. Like the Harry Bosch example, names can be a very important part of the process when it comes to things like intrigue and parts of the stroryline.

Because we give the personality to the character, do we try and match a name to the personality? Or, do we try to match the personality to the name? For this reason, I think names are important in the first instance.

Without giving our MC a nickname, would we call her Mildred in thriller set in this era? I say we would as a converstaional piece, however we would give her nickname.

JJ

maestrowork
08-27-2008, 05:13 PM
Without giving our MC a nickname, would we call her Mildred in thriller set in this era? I say we would as a converstaional piece, however we would give her nickname.

JJ

Like I said, propriety is important in the context of the story, and genres have more conventions and best practices. You wouldn't want to call your hero in the thriller Bill or Bob. Or you would give him a more appropriate nickname. You would call him Bill in a contemporary drama, however. Like Harry in your example. But I wouldn't assign personality because of the name Harry -- so, is he more like Dirty Harry, or Harry Potter, or Harry Connick Jr.? (If it's a nickname, however, then it could relate to his personality because nicknames are picked by people who know him).

Sometimes genres do use that kind of associations: Draco Malfoy? Dick Tracy? It's to play with stereotypes and get the readers into the character as quickly as possible.

In general, though, I'd say avoid trying to match the name with the personality or vice versa unless it really makes sense. To me, you run the risk of it being cliched and predictable: the good guys are always Chris or Luke or Bo and the bad guys are Damian or Judas.

allenparker
08-27-2008, 05:14 PM
Our character names are important. They play an active part in the processing of a character's development for the reader. Finding a name that fits the character and the time in which the story is set, while still portraying the subtle mindset can be difficult, but it gives the reader a place to begin building the view of the character.

With Linus, I already see an mentally undeveloped person struggling to grow up.

Now, for Lanier, I see a straight forward, no-nonsense player whose life is all about the struggle to succeed. Lanier doesn't come with baggage. Linus does. Just as Rocky would or Poindexter would.

Neurotic
08-27-2008, 05:17 PM
I write fantasy so I can tend to be finicky over character names in my own stuff. When I'm reading, unless it's culturally a bad fit I don't read too much into it. If I assumed every Ben I meet was a jerk because I knew one who really was, I'd be missing out on some very nice Bens. On the other hand I loved Snoopy so Linus and his blankie were the first things to pop into my head. I guess all it means is the character has to be really well-drawn to push that preconception out.

Nice non-answer.

Roger J Carlson
08-27-2008, 05:32 PM
a girl reading a draft of my book said, "i dont like this character's name (Linus). It doesnt really fit his personality." (Basically the name linus sounds dorky to her, and the character isn't really dorky at all).

this got me thinking, would this bother you? I am inclined to ignore the above criticism because in real life, peoples names dont necessarily match their personality; they were given at birth and people's names have little effect on their development, IMHO, compared to nurture and nature.

personally i like to choose names that are symbolic in some way, but not necessarily totally matching. I chose linus because he has a rigid personality, like a line. And he ultimately walks a balanced path in life; he walks a line. (this is never even remotely spelled out for the reader, it's just my thoughts in choosing the name).

anyway, does it bother you when a character's name doesnt fit your stereotype for it?

My personal thoughts are that the reader's stereotypes are their problem. The character's name is Linus. Deal with it.I'd like to know why you named her Linus in the first place.

If you named her Linus for a reason, a reason that adds to the story in some way, then leave it. There are lots of ways that a character's name can affect the story. It can show background (weird parents), personality (how does she like the name), reflect society (was she born during Peanut's heyday?), or whatever. If there's a reason, even a tangential one, leave it in.

If, however, you named her Linus "just because", then you might want to change it. If it bothers one person, it might bother others, and you really don't want to bother your readers. And if you don't have a good reason for the name, if it isn't important to the story, why not change it? Why not call her Mary, which won't bother anybody?

NeuroFizz
08-27-2008, 06:18 PM
I like clever uses of names in stories, including names that are steeped in historical or mythological meaning. But I also like to be surprised or convinced over the course of a story that a chosen name is breaking a stereotypical image. It's one of the pleasant parts of fiction--the author is making stuff up, so he/she can stick any name in there and build a story around it. If the chosen name has a strong reminder of a stereotypical personality type, it pleases me to no end when the author skillfully defeats that stereotype during the story. In fact, this can be used as a tool--the character can suffer from and/or fight the stereotype in his/her interactions with other characters throughout the story. If beta readers think the name is wrong (for whatever reason), just maybe characters in the story will as well, and this adds some depth to the overall conflict (and has the potential of making it all more real).

Give Linus wings...

Kenzie
08-27-2008, 06:23 PM
Personally I prefer names that don't fit in with the character's personality 100%. As a reader, I find them more memorable, and the character becomes generally more well-rounded and less of a cliche.

I think names can also be deliberately chosen to not fit the character at all, to a certain ironic effect. My MC is named Audrey, which may bring to mind visions of grace and beauty due to its unavoidable association with Audrey Hepburn, and yet my character is not graceful or beautiful - she is shy, awkward and will disappear into a crowd every time. I chose that contrast deliberately and even made mention of her mother choosing it because every parent wants their daughter to have those beautiful move-star qualities, but often they just don't. The name somewhat reflects her parents' disappointment in how she turned out.

maestrowork
08-27-2008, 06:29 PM
How about this:

What was the personality of Linus supposed to be when Charles Schulz gave the security-blanket hugging kid the name?

Did he try to conform to a stereotype? Or not?

And yet, to these days we still think of Charles Schulz's Linus.

I'd say, make your own Linus and maybe one day someone would remember your Linus when they hear the name.

tehuti88
08-27-2008, 06:50 PM
It might bother me for a while, but you're right in that any associations and stereotypes the reader places upon a name are the reader's issue to deal with. Everybody has different associations for different names; we won't always agree. And times change things. Maybe fifty years from now Linus will be considered a real manly-man name or something. :D

If a character's "misplaced" name bothers a reader so much then they can simply stop reading the story. Me, I probably wouldn't do that if it's a good story, as I find it a silly reason to stop reading. I would just have to modify my preconceptions regarding the name.

I like my names to fit my characters, and I like it in others' work, but I realize that's only my opinion and what fits for me won't fit for everybody.

ClaudiaGray
08-27-2008, 07:52 PM
I think you have to pay some degree of attention to people's preconceptions. Yes, a handsome, heroic, brilliant archaeologist/action hero could have been named "Herbert" by his parents, and called "Herbie" for short, but most readers are going to feel an illogical but real disconnect between the name Herbert and the type of character you're describing. I personally don't find Linus that dorky a name, but a lot of people do. If you feel very strongly about it, you may overcome it, but it is something you have to overcome. I try to think about how names will sound to people when I dub my characters; there's no predicting every response, but it's worth considering.

SPMiller
08-27-2008, 08:05 PM
Heh, I agree with the OP in that character names shouldn't matter, but to many people they do. I don't understand why. Usually a name says nothing more than that a person's parents decided they liked a certain name at the time that person was born. That says nothing at all about who that person may be.

In a linguistic sense, names (in the US) denote nothing. However, they do have something like connotations--if that makes any sense. Also, most people aren't too smart and they just copy the names everyone else is using in any given generation. That leads to association of sets of names with particular generations.

But you, as the writer of your novel, can create new associative information which your readers will link with the character's name, thereby making some subset of society consider it less "dorky".

NeuroFizz
08-27-2008, 08:17 PM
Just out of curiosity (without preconceived expectations), hands-up all of you out there who have put down a book (forever) solely because of the name of the MC.

If your hand goes up, give the MC's name and a little explanation. Solid data may help with the OP's decision on the matter.

Alpha Echo
08-27-2008, 08:17 PM
I don't really think about too much when choosing the characters names, but I know when the name isn't the right one. Does that make sense?

Mad Queen
08-27-2008, 09:24 PM
I think a name should match a character's generation, social context and place of birth, that's it. If names have any influence on personality, it will be minimum, unless the person has a special reason to be very dissatisfied or satisfied with the name. I usually pick common names that I like.

jannawrites
08-27-2008, 09:36 PM
shebitme, I think your reader's perception of Linus will come from how you build his character. Yes, some will have an inherent bias, perhaps based on Linus the Nosepicker from kindergarten (or whatever), but that's going to apply regardless of the name you pick. You chose the name for reasons and intentions that were relevant for you, so I say stick with it. All said and done, despite what your beta reader says, your overall story will (benefit of the doubt here :) ) surpass any connotation with the MC's name.

Good luck! And great username! :D

ETA: In example, for the Ocean's Eleven series of movies, Matt Damon's character is named Linus. After getting to know the plotline and his character, he became Linus. No visions of the Peanuts character for this girl.

Mad Queen
08-27-2008, 09:52 PM
Linus reminds me of Benjamin Linus from Lost. He's a great villain.

ccarver30
08-28-2008, 12:08 AM
I dunno. When I think of someone straight laced, I think of a Michael; surely not Linus. I think maybe you are trying too hard. "Line = Linus, get it readers!?!?"
For me, a simpler name would make more sense... but it's your book! :)

BTW- My sister read some of my current WIP and she couldn't get over her first name (it's french). Although she went by a nickname, she just couldn't get over it (or pronounce it LOL). I ended up changing it to something that went WITH the nickname. It all made sense after I changed it. ::shrugs::

Clair Dickson
08-28-2008, 04:51 AM
Obviosuly there are two sides to this coin-- some people get hung up on names and some don't. Some never get past their associations to those names, and some do. As a teacher, there are some kids that I spend 16 weeks and still have trouble with their names because, honestly, that kid is not "Mike."

Now, I don't think one reader complaint is enough to warrant changing a name. Just because one person doesn't like the name because to her it doesn't fit, doesn't mean it's a problem. Now, if all your betas said, "I never got past the guy being called 'Linus.'" That's a different issue.

In the end, you have to decide if Linus fits the character you see (is there a reason for the name? are you married to it?). If so, keep it. If not, then it's up to you stil to keep or wait to see what agent/editor thinks. =)

BTW-- just becuase a name is 'old-fashioned' does not in any way mean that it should be ruled out for usage in today's novels. There are plenty of parents today who are happily naming their kids "Ambrosia" or "Elliot" or "Ava" or whatever. Not huge amounts, but these kids are out there. And as fiction can/should reflect real life, I think it's quite okay for a character to have one of those 'old' names, if that fits the character.

selkn.asrai
08-28-2008, 05:39 PM
I've never put down a book because I wasn't fond of the character's name. I have put down a book because I thought the writing was poor.

There is a distinct line drawn between the fictional world and the actual world, yes. But I've found that treating characters like human beings is the best way to make one's characters memorable and tangible. If I neglected a person because I hated his name, that would most assuredly be my problem, not his or his parents'.

But that doesn't mean that the stereotypes don't exist. People call me by the wrong name frequently--and not anything similar, like Melissa versus Marissa (neither of those is my name.) They say that, to them, the name they call me fits better than my own. (Never been too sure how I feel about that, but hey.)

All Linus denotes to me is someone unique, because I've never met a Linus. It has strong sounds. I think you should make your Linus into whoever he needs to be without apology. Like many people have said already, it's not like we choose our names at birth.

lexxi
08-28-2008, 07:08 PM
I named a character Boris. I made him sweet and vulnerable. Call him Borya if that helps to picture him.

Before inventing that character, I'd had very different images for that name.

But in the process of getting to know this guy, the name ends up taking on new connotations.

Give your character a name that works for you, and let that character's personality change readers' associations with that name.

DeleyanLee
08-28-2008, 07:17 PM
As long as the name works for me while I'm writing, I'll use it. Unless the person making the comment has a checkbook and a publishing contract to offer, I won't change a character's name. Once I'm finished writing the book, changing the name is a matter of find and replace. I make an effort not to fall in love with any piece of the story, but the story as a whole, so changing a name or seven (including the title) doesn't really bother me.

OTOH, a beta decided they didn't like the name of my hero (Feagh--traditional Irish name in the 1200's which is when the book was set), so they went through the entire ms and replaced it with "Keith" (modern Scottish name from the 1800's). I will admit that experience might well have colored my perception of the topic.

angeliz2k
08-28-2008, 07:50 PM
Names do have a certain look on the page. They have a sound in your head. They will affect your perception of a character, whether there are connotations to the name (like Linus has) or not.

Sometimes I've read a few lines of my story out loud (I don't do that often, I feel like I'm talking to myself . . . ), and the spoken name sounds different from how it "sounded" on the page.

It's great to match the character with the sound/look of the name. But there are much bigger issues to worry about first! Plot, characterization, proper grammar...getting the right "sounding" name isn't a top priority.

shebitme
08-29-2008, 05:29 AM
I'd like to know why you named her Linus in the first place.

If you named her Linus for a reason, a reason that adds to the story in some way, then leave it. There are lots of ways that a character's name can affect the story. It can show background (weird parents), personality (how does she like the name), reflect society (was she born during Peanut's heyday?), or whatever. If there's a reason, even a tangential one, leave it in.

If, however, you named her Linus "just because", then you might want to change it. If it bothers one person, it might bother others, and you really don't want to bother your readers. And if you don't have a good reason for the name, if it isn't important to the story, why not change it? Why not call her Mary, which won't bother anybody?

linus is not a girl. linus (the character) is a boy.
the person reading my draft was a girl. she thought the name sounded dorky.