View Poll Results: Do you choose unusual or common names for your characters?

22. You may not vote on this poll
  • Common names

    1 4.55%
  • Unusual names

    1 4.55%
  • I often use common names, but sometimes choose unusual ones

    3 13.64%
  • I often use unusual names, but sometimes choose common ones

    4 18.18%
  • It depends very much on the character or situation.

    13 59.09%
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2013

    Question Unusual names vs Common names

    I am in naming process right now(have to write a story for some reason) and I came up with a question: is naming your character an unusual name better than using common one? Unusual names include rare and made-up ones while common names in my view are not only ones trendy right know, but also familiar and popular names or name fashionable some time ago. Some pros and cons for both categories:
    1. Unusual
    1.1) Unusual names are memorable and make you reader think of the character when they hear the name. E.g. Scarlett O'Hara is the most notable Scarlett(or was until miss Johanson became famous, but she was named after the original).
    1.2) Using a unusual name allow you to choose name by meaning without being afraid it sounds weird. E.g. Severus Snape: Severus means "stern" and sever is a Slavic word for north.
    1.3) On the other hand, some uncommon names may be hard to pronounce or remember, especially if the book is translated. E.g. Scout from "To Kill a Mockingbird" was named Glazastik(means "quick-eyed one") in Russian translation because Russians always think of scout party when hearing this name and would find the name crazy.
    2. Common
    2.1) Common names are easy to spell, read and pronounce. Plus, almost every simple name has a analog in other languages so translating it right makes the name more familiar for foreign readers. E.g. John=Ivan=Hans=Jan etc.
    2.2) Having a common name makes a character more real life-friendly(you can easily imagine him leaving in your neighborhood) and also can make a person less noticeable, if needed. E.g. Christopher Robin, Jo Harper from "The adventures of Tom Sawyer".
    2.3) But at the same time, you character can blend with other or be a contact of your potential reader. E.g. if you name your character Natalie Williams, someone will think of his friend or teacher, singer or a basketball player.

    That's all for now. As for me, I usually use common first name and unusual last. I guess I am in the middle so.
    It also depends on the character's origin. Oceane Leblanc is quite familiar here, but you hardly ever know a person with that name.

    So which do you prefer? Are you a simple name fan, prefer exotic ones or somewhere in the middle? Does it depend?

  2. #3
    catloverd Guest
    It really depends on when the story takes place and the characters personality. In fantasy genres I tend to use more uncommon, made up names like Nicasia, Wilhelmina, Edolie, Jerome, Silvanus, etc....

    If the story takes place in modern day, then it's a matter of the parents, are they more traditional, religious, southern? And I base the names off that, so it could be something from plain old Sarah to something like Mirabella.

    Look at Harry Potter for instance, Harry and Ron have pretty down to earth names, but Hermione stands out with her unusual name. It really adds to her character and tells us a lot about her parents even though they aren't mentioned very often.

    So to sum it up, as long as the character fits the name, then I think it works

  3. #5
    renrose Guest
    I agree that it depends on your genre. The world I set my books in is a parallel earth so everyone either has a run of the mill name (Grace, Robin etc) that would fit in anywhere or a name that sounds familiar but is actually made up.


    Leonardo - Leosandro
    Magdalena - Madgelaine
    Ariel - Ayella

  4. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    @catloverd: I agree J.K. Rowling is a great namer. I also think the character should fit the name. Some ones in my older stories have pretty simple names(Jacob, Ashley) but they really are Jacob and Ashley and not Quinton and Xenia.
    @renrose: what a lovely idea! So your names do not disturb the eyes as weird ones but actually they are made-up. I think it's great because if I want my readers to enjoy the book, they should not have problems with pronouncing character names.

  5. #9
    renrose Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by mclevine View Post
    So your names do not disturb the eyes as weird ones but actually they are made-up. I think it's great because if I want my readers to enjoy the book, they should not have problems with pronouncing character names.
    Yep exactly Weird without being unpronounceable

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