Category: character names
My favorite book is Jane Eyre, and I don’t think it’s an accident that its title is a name. Names are so central to my enjoyment of books: the names of the characters and of the authors, even the titles themselves. If a character has a wonderful name, I’m already halfway in love. And if the names in the book feel discordant — out of time or place or literally out of character — I lose confidence in the author. If he named the grandmother Jennifer and the little girl Edna with no explanation, I think, what other, harder stuff is he going to get wrong?
Names can affect our literary responses, but how about when a literary character affects how we feel about a name? When the little girl at the Plaza lends her charm to Eloise or when an enterprising urchin makes Sawyer sound smart?
That’s a whole different way of thinking about names and books, and one that’s perfectly valid in considering your answer to our question this week: What names do you love from books? You can take that to mean: What names have books made you fall in love with or What names do you love that have a literary connection? Or even, Which books have the best names or Do books influence how you feel about names at all?
What are the names in the book you’re currently reading, and what do you think of them?
You can think of this as the Nameberry Book Club, where we talk not about plot and pacing and characters but about the characters’ names (sounds like our kind of book club, right?).
I just finished reading the new New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train, by my friend Christina Baker Kline who’s blogged for Nameberry on naming her three sons (and making some mistakes along the way). Her characters’ names include:
Niamh — Vivian‘s original Irish name, changed when she was put on the orphan train because it was too “foreign and difficult.” Couldn’t help feeling that losing her lovely name was one of the biggest tragedy’s of the character’s difficult life!
A lot of you know that, besides being the co-mistress of Nameberry, I’m a novelist. In fact, my new book, The Possibility of You, comes out today.
While writing about names and writing historical fiction are often very different enterprises, there are times when my worlds collide. Like when it’s time to name my characters.
For some fiction writers, character naming might be a minor consideration, somewhere above comma placement but far below such elements as title and voice and what the characters eat for dinner.
Not so for me, of course, with the character’s name being his or her most important defining characteristic. In my view, the character’s name contains a kind of DNA code for who they are and where they come from, what they value and how they hope to change.
Cool baby names today may reference celebrities, sure, but more and more parents are looking to fictional characters for inspiration when naming their children.
Based on nearly two million visits to Nameberry’s individual name pages over the past three months, we see these character names — from classic literature and futuristic fantasy, Old Hollywood films and modern animation — attracting big jumps in interest.
This is one cool baby names trend that makes sense. Fictional characters embody positive, uplifting qualities that their mortal counterparts often fall short on. And in the ever-broadening search for names with personal meaning, parents may find referencing a favorite book or film to be a perfect way to make an important style statement and give their child a namesake to look up to.
Here, the hottest character names on Nameberry right now:
Some of you know that I have another writing life as a novelist: Babes in Captivity and Suburbanistas are two of the novels I’ve published — my new one, called The Tiny Forever, is coming out in February 2012. One of my novel-writing mentors was the mystery writer Elizabeth George, who taught me that a novel begins with the creation of its characters. And the characters start with their names.
The right name is essential for building the other qualities that will make a character come alive on the page, George believes (and I believe too). When you’re working on a piece of fiction — and I know some of you are interested in names primarily as writers, not parents — and the story or book just isn’t coming together, sometimes the problem is that your character has the wrong name.
I decided that might be the problem with my new novel, which I’ve been laboring over for three years now. One of my three main characters, a flower child whose role in the story unfolds in the late 1970s, was named Lily. But I wanted her to be tougher than that, I decided: a scrappy tomboy fighting her way through the world.
And so I changed her name to Billie.