Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Name Me

I gave a similar presentation during a League of Utah Writers mini-bootcamp back in February. I just really like this topic.

So, what’s the big deal about character names anyway? I mean, it’s just a name. In all honesty, a name is a key characteristic, especially to your main character.

Here’s an example scenario: What if it was called “Draco Malfoy and the Sorcerer’s Stone”? Draco learns that he’s a wizard and goes into the wizarding world where he meets Neville Longbottom, the sixth of seven children in a poor family. They team up with Parvati Patil. Draco creates an enemy in prideful Harry Potter, who’s father works for the Ministry of Magic as well as having been a member of the Order of Merlin, Lord Dumbledore’s evil group of people. Helping Draco is Professor Voldemort, who always seems to know more of what’s going on.

Okay, there are a few things wrong here. First, “Voldemort” can translate to “Stealing Death”. Draco is from “draconian”, which is a reference to dragons. Dumbledore is a kind term, not an evil one. It just doesn’t make sense to use the names this way.

It must’ve taken Rowling some time to research meanings in order to create her characters with names that give them life.

Here’s another thought. Let’s talk about Regency Romance. And let’s say this is your scene: guy and girl flirt with one another in London. Both are aristocrats. Ready go:

Jamal walked up to LaKesha. Her strawberry blonde hair and fair skin always caught his attention. He hoped LaKesha felt the same way about him.
“Jamal!” LaKesha put out her hand for him to kiss it. “Have you seen Mario, Duke of Chester? His family is throwing their annual ball and I must get an invite.”
“No, LaKesha. I would guess he’s with Keiko, he really has taken a fancy with her.”

Besides the obvious (T.J. writes poor regency) these names don’t belong in that era tied to those people. Jamal may be the closest possibility. Even then, it doesn’t feel right for Regency. LaKesha sounds like an African-American name. Mario belongs to Italy and/or Spain. While Keiko is Japanese. A lot of immigrants in Regency Era England? Maybe, but most certainly not ones in an aristocratic society.

If you want to write fantasy, you could claim “I can come up with any name I want to.” I’ll give you that. However, you may want consistency in name types, especially if you’re going with different races. Comparing Earthly races in individual, raw forms, you could go with many Asian cultures and realize, most of them have single syllable names, maybe two syllables. In my own writing, my Dwarfs have “hard” names where there’s a “k” sound or “r” sound in the name and less “ll”s and such.

Just some thoughts. What do you think? What are some comical misplaced names?

1 comment:

Julie Daines said...

Great post! I think names are so very important!