What’s Your Name…Again?

Considering the personality of the character and his appearance the name suits him perfectly.  I think that Star Wars did well with the names of their characters because they were consistant.  You didn’t encounter any characters that had ordinary sounding names like Bob Johnstone.  The use of the names of characters in the movie reinforced the world building of the Star Wars universe  and the idea that this was truly happening in a galaxy far far away rather then down the street.  Names are a funny thing. In everyday life we don’t really give too much thought to the name of our colleagues or neighbors, but when it comes to fiction a name can make or break a character. A character’s name can give the reader insight into the character’s personality and culture.  It can also hint at the character’s fate. Take for example the movie Star Wars: A New Hope. The character Luke Skywalker is a great name because ‘Luke’ is somewhat ordinary, which the character seems to be early on, yet Skywalker hints at something grandiose or epic.  The fact that he ends up leaving Tattooine and piloting fighters through interstellar space and etc. seems to be suggested by the name.  Then there’s Han Solo, the name ‘Solo’ relates to his streak of independence and outsider personality, especially early in the movie.  The name Darth Vader is a brilliant name. Darth reminds me of the word death or dark.  Vader is just a bad ass name. Reminds me in some ways of ‘raider’ but I’ve also read somewhere that ‘Vader’ is a German word for father, which works for the character, too.

When coming up with names for characters it’s not that easy to find one that fits just right.  Sometimes there are just horribly awkward ones that are distracting and annoying.  For example, the character Ephraim Goodweather in The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  I think it’s a horrible name for the character because he’s an American doctor in contemporary America.  Ephraim is such an odd name that doesn’t fit his social background. His name stands out awkwardly from the other characters.  If he was a potato farmer in Eastern Europe, okay.  But he’s not.  The majority of the other characters in the book have names that fit their background.  Perhaps Ephraim has some specific meaning, I haven’t bothered looking it up, that relates to the character.  But even the last name ‘Goodweather’ doesn’t relate to the fate/personality of the character.  In fact things go from bad to apocalyptical for the character.  It really makes no sense. I think names should fit the time period and culture of the character, or else have a define reason for them. 

Another problem with naming characters is that you can end up having more then one character that has a name that starts with the same letter.  An example would be the characters Sauron and Saruman in Tolkien’s epic The Lord Of The Rings. I mean, I love Tolkien but c’mon! They sound and even look way too similar. It is true that the characters don’t exactly appear on page having a lengthy conversation or scene together, which would be mind boggling confusing to read, but the names are still too similar. Tolkien did this often in his writing, mainly because he had an interest in the history of linguistics and it was common for a son to have a very similar name to his father and etc. But from my perspective as a reader, it is awkward and clumsy. Can you imagine reading a scene of dialogue where one character’s name is Joe while another is Jon or Joelle?

It’s not an easy task coming up with a name for a character, especially the protagonist or antagonist, and often the names change while writing the first draft and other revisions.  But once a name has been found that suits the character it can really add to not only that character but to the overall story.



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