Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's in a Name?

I remember when I first started reading romance, the characters’ names fascinated me. They were always different, exotic--and a bit unusual, yet memorable. Let’s see, Palmer, Templar, Trelawney, Tristan (lots of t’s), Chase (not so unusual now), Daffyd, Cholla, just to mention a few. Perhaps these authors had a superstition not to name characters after anyone they knew. Perhaps they wished to convey something of the character, for instance, Cholla was a prickly hero named for a cactus.

This topic came to mind after reading a blog on the Black Rose site, Vampire Legends. This blog mentioned the tale of Lilith, not a name you hear often. In fact, I have only heard this name used one other time. She was the wife of Dr. Frazier Crane. Was she named for this evil succubus? Probably.

The Puritans often named children for admirable traits, Patience, Mercy, Faith, and so on. I’ve always thought it was interesting how J.K. Rowling named her characters. Sirius Black, shape shifts into a dog, and Sirius is the Dog Star. Remus Lupin is named for one of the twins of Rome. The twins were said to have been raised by wolves and Lupin is a lot like Lupine. He’s a werewolf, by the way. Much like Melville’s use of the name Ahab in Moby Dick we can actually tell a bit about our characters from just their names. Melville’s captain was named for the evil King Ahab, husband of Jezebel. Atticus Finch, from to Kill a Mockingbird, is named for a bird himself, so there's a hint of sadness at the very beginning of the book.

Have you ever noticed there are certain names that are off limits, or at least regulated, to the bad guys? Granted, I have read a few where the character’s horse or dog or animal of some kind is named Lucifer. But to name a hero an unheroic name...the horror. And there are some names, while not taboo, that have been removed by notoriety. My grandfather’s name for example—Rudolph. Rudolph Valentino was the heart throb of many, but that blasted song about the red nosed reindeer swiped every bit of sex appeal from the name. It’s a strong name, a good name...It means wolf. I was so happy to see a derivation of this used in the upcoming Cactus release, Halfway to Forever written by Lee Scofield. The hero's name is Rudolfo.

Looking back I've named some characters for traits, my soldier was Joshua and shared his name with the Biblical warrior, another character, Jericho, had personal walls that needed to be broken. My heroine Eden, was temptation to the hero and ultimately his paradise.

So...what’s your favorite or most memorable character name?


Tanya Hanson said...

What a terrific post. I work terribly hard for the right name. Sometimes it comes in a dream lol, sometimes hubby helps. Right now he just came up with the coolest cowboy name ever which I cannot divulge.

I have a character, Deliverance, in a time-travel YA I'm working on, set in the 1692 Witch Trials in Salem.

Mallary said...

Thanks!I'm dying to know the name :-)

Paty Jager said...

Sometimes I work hard to find a name, digging into their background and seeing what fits and other times the name just pops into my head and I like it and run with it. No system to me. LOL

I can't think of any hero names at the moment.

Fun post!