Saturday, August 20, 2011

Actually, Go Ahead -- Judge Away

"Don't judge." 

    It's an expression I hear quite a bit, mostly in joke -- but let's face it.  Whether we want to or not -- whether we realize it or not -- we judge people and characters.  And a lot of the time, one of the first impressions is actually a name. 

    Names are obviously important -- they need to match the character's personality, time period, social status, and so on.  Eugene Fitzherbert isn't a great name for an adventure-loving thief, and I'm sure Flynn Rider would back you up on that one. 

    But even though names are important, they don't necessarily make or break a character -- that's all up to the characterization. 

    Example time --

    Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I mean, anyone else ever read a character with a number for a name (besides the temporary title Boy 412 had in Magyk by Angie Sage)?  Yeah, not really.  And somehow it seems like Four makes a natural name, whereas, I don't know, the name Three or Five or Eight would just be ridiculous. 

    It's the same way with Dustfinger with Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  At least Four is a nickname -- Dustfinger's kind of stuck with his name.  Still, he's an awesome character, and if you focus on him and don't consider his name too deeply, he manages to make "Dustfinger" a pretty cool name. 

    A lot of high-fantasy books are the same way.  Who would've ever thought Aragorn or Frodo or Legolas could've been names? 

    These are only a couple of examples, but I the point's pretty clear -- any more would be overkill.  Have you come across any other names that at first sounded riduculous, but ended up seeming rad once the characterization had done its job? 


Jenna Cooper said...

Pretty much any name from The Hunger Games took me some time to get used to.
And in Graceling, I had the hardest time getting used to Po. I'm still not used to it, but I blame Mulan and Teletubbies for that.

Kyle said...

Saint Dane in the Pendragon series almost sound like a mixed dog breed. But the character himself creates a vision of evil.

Angie Cothran said...

I have to say that I struggled with both Katniss and Peeta, but they grew on me and now I can't imagine different names.

The Golden Eagle said...

Dodge, from The Looking Glass Wars. When I first read book one, I couldn't help but wonder at his name; but after finishing the series, it seemed to fit him quite well.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've read tons of strange names, LOL! But I usually just figure, "Oh, well!" and just read. And often I fall in love with the book and simply accept the names (which at that point sound normal. ;). Like, Dustfinger doesn't even sound weird to me anymore! Nor do the LOTR names, because I'm a HUGE LOTR geek. ;)

Kimberly Krey said...

I agree with you that some have pulled off the whole 'weird name thing', but I think I'd rather play it safe for sure. :)

The Story Queen said...

Have to agree with the other comments about The Hunger Games character names. Katniss, Peeta (the BAKER'S SON. PEETA), Finnick, etc.?

Also, 'Valentine' as the main villain amused me for a while from the Mortal Instruments series.

Great examples as usual!

Lynda R Young said...

I take ages picking names for my characters. They are so important to get right.

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Jenna -- I had issues with a lot of the Hunger Games names, too. I haven't started it yet, but I just checked Graceling out from the library, and Po sounds like an awful name to get used to. It reminds me of Mulan too -- and Kung Fu Panda. Teletubbies scared me when I was little (can't believe I just admitted that), but I bet the Po there doesn't exactly help with Graceling's Po.

Kyle -- True. It's hard to respect a villain named Saint Dane...I still don't think I'm quite used to it.

Angie -- Eesh, me too. I was definitely skeptical at first, but by the end of the first book, I'd accepted them both.

Golden Eagle -- I've never read that, but I can see how it'd give you trouble. I think it would remind me of a truck or something the whole time. Isn't it funny how the name ends up fitting the character perfectly?

Taylor -- I love how they end up seeming normal! That's definitely great characterization. And now Dustfinger seems like a completely natural name to me now, which is weird -- and the Lord of the Rings books. (:

Kimberly -- Good point! I like unusual names, but not when they're too...out there. (:

Story Queen -- Ha, very true. The name Peeta seemed to trip me up longer than Katniss's did, probably because it sounds like a British "Peter" there's the ever-popular "Beetee." I never came around to that one.

Lynda -- Me too. That's one of the first things I do, and sometimes I drive myself crazy with it. Then I give up and go with instinct. (;

Thanks for all the comments! Sorry it took me so long to reply. School and excuses and all that.

Liz. R said...

Have you ever read the Maximum Ride series? I really struggled with Fang as one of the character names - I just kept thinking of the dog from Harry Potter! But eventually, I got used to it. Same with Po from Graceling - that took a lot of getting used to!

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way about Four.

When the writing's good my mind absorbs the names rather quickly. If I don't care for the book, the names grate on my nerves.

Kelley said...

I'm completely in agreement about Four. At first I thought, Really? But then I really warmed up to it. It just depends on if the character can pull off that name

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Liz -- I love the Maximum Ride books! Fang's actually one of my favorite characters (though I liked him better in the earlier books), but I had a little trouble with his name. All of the flock's names, really. For the first several chapters of *The Angel Experiment*, I actually thought Max was a boy. When I realized she was a girl, I had to go through and reread what I'd read. It made a pretty big difference. I'm working on Graceling, and I know Po will give me some issues.

Medeia -- Good point. I adjust to names much more quickly if I like the characters.

Kelley -- I agree. I was way skeptical at first, but I think it worked out well.

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