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Project nachonaco
03-14-2010, 02:06 AM
Searched and could not find recent topic.

Anywho.

Do your characters have meaningful names?

Or ironic names, for that matter?

One of my MCs has the name Sydney. (As do I, but that's a different thread)

Sydney is derived from 'St. Denis', the patron saint of (among other things) possessed people.

I may be stretching here, but I guess you could also count 'Multiple Personality/Disassociative Identity Disorder' as being possessed. Well, kinda.

She goes through trauma and associates this trauma with the other personality.

Another character is named Renee Delacroix, which translates to 'Reborn of the Cross'. She's an atheist.

Nora, the antagonist (who really is more of an anti-hero, she wanted to be good and had ideas that would have helped the world, but yeah), has a name that means 'Light'.

Libbie
03-14-2010, 02:08 AM
Very few actual people have "meaningful" names. The names probably have meaning to their parents, but in terms of names chosen to affect destiny, etc., that just doesn't happen in real life all that often. A name is just a collection of sounds. It doesn't need to "mean" anything in order to serve your story.

That being said, it can be really fun to choose just the right name for characters.

Sadly, I write historical fiction and so far it's all been about actual historical figures, so my characters come pre-named. I don't get to have fun picking their names. ;)

Project nachonaco
03-14-2010, 02:10 AM
The kicker is, I did NONE of these on purpose.

I chose Syd because it's my name.

I chose Renee because in a VERY early draft, she was a clone of Syd.

My friend chose Nora.

Tepelus
03-14-2010, 02:27 AM
Like Libbie, since I write Historical Fantasy, most of my characters come pre-named. Those characters that did not exist get some random name thrown on them according to their nationality and the time period, with one exception, I did name the love interest of my MC after a friend.

Maryn
03-14-2010, 02:34 AM
Never. If I find an inadvertantly meaningful name, that character is rechistened.

To me, names whose meanings are very like the characters are a short cut for giving that character memorable traits. I dont' want readers to remember Savage because he's so savage, or Doris Gluckner because she's so dumpy.

Even in the world of fiction, my characters' parents never cradled their newborn and said, "He'll be overweight and a whiner, so we'll call him Gilbert." Every parent attempts to give his/her child a good name, and when they know the meaning of the name, it's something positive.

I suppose if I wrote over-the-top tongue-in-cheek stuff, my answer would be different, but I don't and it isn't.

Maryn, whose characters are Ryan, Leo, and Anton

CACTUSWENDY
03-14-2010, 02:52 AM
It's funny you should ask. My little demon of Greed has a first name that is made from my real life initials plus an ie at the end....Elbie. No one will know that but it is my own little 'joke' I have thrown in. (Well, now everyone knows.....sigh. Me and my big mouth.)

Linda Adams
03-14-2010, 02:53 AM
No meaningful names. I just make a fast scan of a website with lots of names and pick a first or last name I like.

However, I do tend to have "inside jokes" with one or two of the names (other people call them Easter Eggs). I have one that people familiar with a particular TV show will like.

WildScribe
03-14-2010, 02:59 AM
Nope, I don't pick character names for meanings. I try to go with what feels right for the character. On the other hand, I chose my names for my pets and my sons partially by meaning so I'm not against the idea in general, I just agree with Maryn that maybe there are better places for it than fiction that should stand out for other reasons.

SirOtter
03-14-2010, 03:17 AM
In Smarter Than the Average Werewolf, I named a hooker Veda Ampersand for no reason other than it amused me to do so. The brain-damaged giant who turns out to be so much more I called Big Stoop, after a character in the Terry & the Pirates comic strip from the 1930s - 1960s. Several characters' last names start with M, which became a running gag for the hero to play with. The not seen but occasionally referred to Wyatt Steele, who plays a larger role in the sequel, Dead Women in Love, was named for my old friend double Hugo winner Allen Steele, in thanks for tuckerizing me in his first novel.

SPMiller
03-14-2010, 05:18 AM
Usually, no. In one recent story, I named several characters and places after elements of Greek myth. I can't wait for English teachers in high school classrooms everywhere to go batshit over the deeper meanings in my work.

Brad
03-14-2010, 06:46 AM
I don't write fiction, but this reminds me of the back cover of Stranger in a Strange Land that read something like "Every character in Stranger in a Strange Land is named for the essence of their character. Michael means "one who is like God". Jubal means "the father of all". We'll leave it up to the reader to figure the rest out".

I thought it was such a strange thing to put on a book cover; what is so special about the fact that the characters have meaningful names? But, it did make me analyze the characters more in trying to figure out what their names meant and possibly enriched the story more.

I remember in high school we spent a bunch of time analyzing all of the character names in Of Mice and Men. I remember some things. Curly was a metaphor of curling your arms up in fists, as if ready to fight. At least that's a connection we drew.

Just choosing a name that feels right can be meaningful too. There is some branch of linguistics that deals with the psychological connection to speech sounds. Anyone know it? If you watch The Office, for example, you know that it is called "murder" and not "mukduk" because "r" is such a menacing letter.

I guess I am just saying that if a reader even gets the hint to look for meaning in a name, he/she may find more meaning in the story overall. Mostly I am just rambling.

shadowwalker
03-14-2010, 06:55 AM
I don't try to pick meaningful names - I made a deliberate attempt to do that with a fantasy story I started and by the time I had the first four characters, I was so confused by the characters' "identities" I dropped the story! :D Usually I just try to stay away from "tired names" (names for the main characters that have been so over-used they're almost cliches) or names that inadvertently sound comical (LeRoy Snout or something like that). Otherwise I have a random name generator and I just refresh that until I find the name that "works" for me.

kaitie
03-14-2010, 07:13 AM
The kicker is, I did NONE of these on purpose.


I don't do it on purpose, but it happens. I just picked out a last name for my villain, and after doing so went and looked up the meaning just for kicks and it turned out to be spot on. One of the main characters is someone who is always trying to help people, and his name turned out to mean "helper" totally by chance.

A couple of the other characters in this one were chosen because of what their characters would have been named by their parents, so they don't quite count (their names are fitting for a different reason).

I do tend to have this happen a lot. Usually all the important characters end up having names that have a meaning that fits. Heck, the fake name I use on the internet by pure chance turned out to have the same meaning as my name in real life. I totally didn't plan that.

kposa
03-14-2010, 07:34 AM
Some of my characters have meaningful names, and some don't. My main characters have names that I like, are easy to say, not so common, and seem to just fit them. Then, I have a group of characters whose names I played with, and who have a common element to their names.

I love the names of some of the Harry Potter characters and how there is a connection to their personalities. Sirius Black, for example, turns into a black dog (Sirius is the dog star). Regulus Arcturus (his brother) and Bellatrix (his cousin) are also the names of stars. Remus Lupin's name is also reflective of who he is. Finding these connections is fun for me as a reader. So I did something similar for some of my own characters.

backslashbaby
03-14-2010, 08:33 AM
My MC does, because she has always felt that her name is a calling [Justisse]. Her parents actually named her that as a combo of their two favorite names, and she knows this, but this girl's a dreamer and desperately wants to be special. Importantly, at least as an easter egg, the Hungarian Name Day for this name is really believed to mean something after death. That goes with the plot.

Marcsa (with a c that I can't do here), for the other MC, is really a Hungarian name, seems a tad masculine, and might remind folks of Marxism on some level. So that's a bit of a trick. She's a tough-as-nails old Communist woman.

ETA: I want people to be reminded of Marcsa's upbringing. They'll know she's Communist, of course, but I like subconsciously reminding them of that throughout. It's a fine name, anyway.

megan_d
03-14-2010, 01:16 PM
I have to be honest and say that I find the idea of giving your MC your name is a little strange. It just seems too mary sue-ish, and even if that wasn't the intention it would turn me off of reading if I noticed the author and a character in the back blurb shared names.

InsanitySquares
03-14-2010, 04:07 PM
My MC in my current WIP is called Meggie, a nickname for Megan that I liked as it was different but still normal, if you get me. Some sub-characters are named after people I know, so there's no real meaning behind them. I tend not to check out what names mean, as it'll affect how I write them. Unless they're a character that gets to pick their own name, then that's different.

crazynance
03-14-2010, 04:41 PM
I might give a character a particular name if it will give the characters something to talk about- especially if it misleads them.

Anaximander
03-14-2010, 04:58 PM
I named the captain of a crew of airship mercenaries Isaac Abershaw. Jerry Abershawe was a highwayman who robbed travellers on the London-Portsmouth road in the late 1700's.

Coconino
03-14-2010, 07:45 PM
Do your characters have meaningful names.

I think Erwinia Amylovora is a good name for a Russian microbiologist.

And Rendzina is a great name for a character who talks a lot.
Rendzina is the name for a soil type that contains lots of gravel, so it
"chatters" when the plow goes through it. Rendzina comes
from a Polish word meaning "chat".

Claudia Gray
03-14-2010, 08:04 PM
I don't pick names for meanings. I choose something that has the right sound/energy, and seems a likely choice for the character's parents. That said, if I've applied those criteria and narrowed it down to a couple of names, and one of those names has a meaning that's perfect, I might then go for that. But for the most part, it's the sound/energy thing -- whether the name creates the image of a person that I see as my character.

Miss T
03-15-2010, 08:50 AM
I love with-meaning names-- Jane Eyre, anyone?

I can't really do it, mostly because the meaning never seems to fit the character. I tend to go with loosely-related things, though, since if I don't have some limitations, I never get anything done.

Matera the Mad
03-15-2010, 09:28 AM
At the moment, I have only a couple of subtle anagrams. I have a villain with an unpleasant personality whose name is an anagram of vinegar. And when I had to change the name of a female antagonist, I derived a new name from a beldam. I imagine my characters' names do have some meaning; they are of that sort of culture. But I haven't asked. ;)

Chauchat Butterfly
03-15-2010, 01:51 PM
I generally don't give my characters names with any meaning. Usually I just let them name themselves. Though I do have characters whose names are veiled references or puns but those have no bearing on the characters as people, just on how they came about...sort of.

shaldna
03-15-2010, 03:08 PM
Very few actual people have "meaningful" names. The names probably have meaning to their parents, but in terms of names chosen to affect destiny, etc., that just doesn't happen in real life all that often. A name is just a collection of sounds. It doesn't need to "mean" anything in order to serve your story.

That being said, it can be really fun to choose just the right name for characters.
;)


This.

I know when we named our daughter we chose something that meant something to us.

When my parents named me they chose a name they loved, and one that I really don't like too much.

In terms of my characters I just pull names out of my ass, so to speak. Most of my novels are set in and around Belfast, so there are plenty of local names, quite alot of Irish and Scottish names and a few traditional English names.

shaldna
03-15-2010, 03:11 PM
I have to be honest and say that I find the idea of giving your MC your name is a little strange. It just seems too mary sue-ish, and even if that wasn't the intention it would turn me off of reading if I noticed the author and a character in the back blurb shared names.


Darren Shan did it and it was awesome.

I think it's more sue-ish to give your character a super aweseome exotic name when they come from Slough.

charlotte49ers
03-15-2010, 05:44 PM
Some yes, some no. Some just sounded right for the character. Some characters, I started out looking for names with a specific meaning and found one that worked, just because I couldn't decide what I wanted to call them. :-)

I do make sure their names are generationally appropriate.

Lady Ice
03-15-2010, 10:49 PM
Please don't do the whole 'Look! This is a meaningful NAME!' Names to avoid are things like Grace, Faith...anything that is distracting in its symbolism. This includes dodgy translations.

Fulk
03-16-2010, 08:09 AM
For the most part, I've managed to avoid this, as the majority of my character names are born from generators or mashing sounds together in a way that sounds like a name. An important character in my WIP has a name that resembles the name "Cain," but most of the name's significance has no bearing on the story or character. He has no brothers to be jealous of and gets along quite well with his sister. :p

I'm not wholly averse to meaningful names, but so far I haven't found any that don't come off as weak and corny.

Miss T
03-16-2010, 08:51 AM
Please don't do the whole 'Look! This is a meaningful NAME!' Names to avoid are things like Grace, Faith...anything that is distracting in its symbolism. This includes dodgy translations.

Or Lucy Honeychurch. I have no idea how Forster got away with any of that at all.

BenPanced
03-16-2010, 09:43 AM
I don't have particular meanings for my characters' names, either, but I do like to stick in "inside" jokes or, in the case of my James Bond-esque spy novel, bad puns. In one novel, I had three separate characters named Mitchell, Phil, and Grant after the thug brothers Phil and Grant Mitchell in the British show EastEnders (one of the MCs in this particular novel is a huge fan of the show and he did a double take after having been introduced to all three), and in the spy novel I had a secretary named Helen Highwater.

misselainie
03-18-2010, 06:20 AM
In my short stories, I have fun with names. I named one character Mary-Lu Snurfrotten, just to see if I could get away with it and I did, by immediately acknowledging that the name was absurd and commenting that she'd come from a town so small that nobody laughed at the name there. In another story, I named a guy Edsel Moran and had him realize that he was destined to be a loser because he was named after a loser.

LuckyH
03-18-2010, 10:02 AM
As a reader, I get offended when writers use meaningful names to feed their ego, and I know that parents sometimes name their children to feed their own ego. They forget that child will at some later stage appear before one of life’s assessment boards who will not be impressed with an applicant named after a famous porn star, or a long-faded pop idol.

I pick my names from the telephone directory, but take some care to ensure they are not inappropriate or already in popular use; there will only be one Harry Potter for years to come.

I wouldn’t name a Spanish character Jesus, unless I was writing for a Spanish audience.

Red-Green
03-18-2010, 07:49 PM
I am a big believer in letting characters' parents name them. That said, some parents do try to choose meaningful names/nicknames. Hence in the book I have on sub the Ugliest Girl in the World is named Shona. (a phonetic equivalent for "beautiful" in German.)

TrickyFiction
03-18-2010, 09:02 PM
Dickens used meaningful names, didn't he? J.K. Rowling did, too, and it never distracted me. There's nothing inherently wrong with it. Same as always, whatever works for your piece, works. As for me, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. Depends on my undependable mood.