Thursday, April 29, 2010

Names: One & the Same

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose | by any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Character names. Undoubtedly integral aspects of stories, no? Coming up with names can be a pesky business. Sometimes it feels like there are no suitable options; other times like there's an endless sea of possibilities and it's impossible to decide.

But there a few names that I've always sort of connotatively thought of as vetoed - forbidden. The first one, of course, being the [writer]'s own name. From the writing perspective, I've never really been able to bring myself to use my own name for any of my characters. On some level, it just feels a little strange to me, because I think I would find that uncomfortable. And I've always marveled at novels with characters which take the names of their creators.

Recently, I noticed that there's a Lauren in Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Another classic example would be Jane Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Now, I found this one to be particularly striking. Jane Bennet is characterized as the most beautiful, the kindest, etc. Jane and Jane - is that representative on some level?

When it comes to reading, how does it feel to encounter a character with the same name as you? (I happen to have a fairly uncommon name, so it doesn't really happen to me.) What about people you know, is it strange reading about characters with the same name as them? Recently read Kristin Walker's A Match Made in High School, and one of the characters not only had the same name, but a few similar character traits, and a similar hobby as someone I happen to know. It was definitely interesting, and a little hard to distinctly differentiate the two.

I've also been hearing from some people about how they feel uncomfortable naming characters with the same name as people they know (provided that the two aren't meant to be linked/named after). I'm personally like that too. How about you?

I guess now I'll open the topic up to discussion. So, some leading questions to get it started:

How do you feel (from a reader's or writer's perspective) about characters with the same name as the author? With your name? With the names of people you know?


Remilda Graystone said...

I think names are important, but not so important that you should devote a chunk of time to finding the perfect one. How do I feel when I come across a character with the same name as me? I don't know because it hasn't happened yet. I have a fairly uncommon name as well. Actually, most of my family members do.

When I come across a character who shares the same name as someone I know, I don't really react to it. I do avoid trying to name a character after someone I know, though. I have "default names" that I use when I'm too lazy to pick one, and I've met people whose names were on my default list, and while I'm hesitant to use it, I don't give it too much thought. They usually don't either.

A character with the same name as the author...again, this isn't something I've come across. Um...I'm not really someone who pays attention to the author's name, which is why I'm so bad at recommending books. I suppose my feelings would depend on the character. If the character was perfect in every way while the others were boring or evil, I'd wonder why they had done that, and probably think twice about picking up another of the author's books.

Anyway, interesting questions. I enjoyed answering them.

Optimal Optimist said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog and for entering my giveaway! I'll be picking the winner this weekend so hopefully you'll be hearing from me again soon!

Great blog and interesting topic....I always like to see my name used for a character, but I know that it's important to not associate my feelings/beliefs/personality traits with the character. A name's just a word we use for recognition, but the personality behind it is what makes someone really unique.

Cheyanne Young said...

This is interesting. I've never once paid attention to a main character having the same name as the author, and now that it's been pointed out to me, it seems so obvious.

Personally, I don't spend a lot of time on names although I definitely don't name characters the same thing as my close friends because they will try to claim that I based a character off of them. Unless the name is very important, I just pick it at random because there are so many names to choose from, I'd never be able to start writing if I didn't just draw one from a hat!

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