What's in a name?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Mamb, Aug 7, 2003.

  1. Mamb

    Mamb Master Blaster

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    I've skimmed through the "best names" thread but it doesn't really raise this issue.

    Do you think a character's name influences your mental image of that character? Would you think of them in the same way if they had a different name?

    An obvious situation is in Robin Hobb's work where naming is given an almost magical status. Verity has to be honest, Chivalry has to be gallant, etc.

    But what about in other novels? Does Stannis suggest a hard, cold man? Does Renly convey something totally the opposite?

    Could there be a young boy called Gandalf? Would you trust a character called Lemuel Pigeon? Could Grunther be small and weak?

    There are so many others like this. I will add them as I think of them.

    What d'ya reckon?
     
  2. Obtuse

    Obtuse

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    I believe you are on to something. I think it's something a lot of authors try to do, with varied degrees of success.

    One of the failures, IMO, is the name Renly. It always reminds me of Ren & Stimpy. I don't think that's what GRRM intended.

    Also, when I first started reading Farseer, I thought the name = virtue thing was just silly. Luckily, the story was good enough that it didn't matter.

    To add to the list of the obvious, Darken Rahl. You know this guy has to be evil before you ever read anything about him.
     
  3. milamber_reborn

    milamber_reborn Barcelona!

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    It's all in the characterisation really, but in my own writing I try to find the perfect name for each character. Some names just fit perfectly, and main characters need to have good names.
     
  4. Nimea

    Nimea Leisure time optimizer

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    Mmh, really interesting.

    For me at least, names are important. When I give my characters their names, I try to chose good sounding names and if the meaning of the name fits as well, even better. And I like to give them (at least the main characters) unusual names. Not names you can't say, but names that are rare - just like I would not give my kids names like Peter, Susanne, Hans or Kathrin. I know too many people with those names. Some names seem like an epidemic. ;)
    That's what impresses me with J.K. Rowling so much. Her names fit the wearer extremely well in a lot of cases. (Okay, Harry :rolleyes: . . . ;) )

    I do not search for that in a book but if I come across it, I really appreciate it.

    Something else is: the range of the names.
    Mmh, or how could I say it better? I like it when the names fit with the cultural background of the character. That means if the heroes get to another country, the names should be different there.

    Another name for a character would probably really make the person seem different. Names grow on you in books just like they grow on you in real life, at least that's the case with me.

    :)
     
  5. Keziah

    Keziah Fish

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    The name of a character definetly influences my mental image of them. The type of name, does it sound solid, strong, weak etc, but also if i know someone with that name.

    A recent example of this is the Ser Royce character at the start of Martin's A Game of Thrones. I actully had to stop reading and construct a new image of the character in my head before i could begin again, just because i couldnt get my friend Royce's image out of my head - and it really didn't go very well with the character.

    Luckily this doesnt happen much as Fantasy names tend towards the unusual.
     
  6. Headwound

    Headwound Registered User

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    Who wants to read about a magician named Steve?

    We are talking about fantasy here... In fantasy names are a crucial part of suspending disbelief.
    If a normal fiction book had all these wild names it would be laughed off the shelves.
     
  7. Headwound

    Headwound Registered User

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    I dont think a name can be strong,weak or brave by itself. Although names can take on those characteristics when compared to other names in the story. Usually the protagonist set the bar on this theory. Thats why Harry is Harry or Simon is Simon among all the other creative names. Its a many sided pickle.
     
  8. Valada

    Valada Overworked & Underpaid

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    I tend to agree with Nimea, particularly regarding the following sentence:

    Names can definitely carry associations, and the benefit of writing fantasy is that you don't need to call anyone John or Christopher or Mary or Jane (although you can if you want!). The names can be very different, or a modification of a common name (like many of George R R Martin's characters) and noone will laugh at you for that. But names still need to be chosen carefully.