Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Naming fictional characers

This can be some of the most fun you have when creative writing - and sometimes the most frustrating. You want a name that sounds cool, heroic, telling, dastardly, but not too corny. Not always easy. But easier than picking out baby names.

Creative Writing: Choosing Names for Fictional Characters
Names must match the character they portray; therefore it is important to know the characters first: who they are, what they do, and why they do it before deciding on a name. Arthur Miller’s character, Willie Loman has become an iconic name because it perfectly describes who he is and his position in the world.

Avoid silly names unless writing for children. Dickensian names such as Mr. Pumblechook or Mrs. Pardiggle will appear contrived as will very formal and antiquated names such as Viscount Rothschild. Common names such as John and Susan are boring and say little about the character.
In Lefevre's Redemption, I went with "Luc Lefevre" because I wanted something French Canadian (matching the heritage of the city, the street names and the families around Windsor) but also something a bit tough - you can name more than one famous hockey player named either Luc or Lefevre, I think. Also, the alliterative L and L in the first and last names match along with the Marvel comic universe where your super-heroe's mild-mannered persona is often with matching letters: Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Ryan Rogers, as examples.

"Mickey Gordon" was supposed to have a childish twist, and of course there's nothing more cliche than a cop with an Irish name. "Arsenio Con Pisco" was supposed to sound regal and foreign. "Chase Nguyen" was picked because Nguyen is like the Smith of the Korean world. I wanted a name that was overly common, but foreign, which would make pinpointing his identity difficult if detectives were searching for him. Chase, although it comes with connotations because it is in fact a verb as well as a name, was picked by a friend of mine (Zach Cranny) who thought it would be cool.

"Hal Doric" was because I wanted a towering but old-school feeling for someone. You get the 2001: A Space Odyssey (never spelled Odyssey before!) reference from the humane, but uncompromising computer, and a reference to an old Grecian culture - sometimes elegant and sometimes brutal.

The Tomb of the Undead characters have neat names, too. Casey Miller, Howard Bolam, Monique DeChamplaines, Barnum Mantell (dinosaur reference!), Darrell Starkwood, Balaam Zeira Rabba and Agras bas Ma'Aseh - not to mention Dustin Mugabe (the villain). [just yesterday - or something like that - I decided that I'd rather name Monique, Evelyn. It sounds silly, like, what does it matter what her name is? But I think in terms of how the story comes together toward the end - that this is the right name for her.]

As always, a cohesive writing unit is important - and having everything come together is integral to a well-plotted, well-conceived and well-executed story!

Often there are excellent opportunities with character names to toss in a reference to your influences while writing. I would like to use a few names from Michael Crichton novels - I was thinking of using the name Regis Edwards, an homage to Ed Regis from Jurassic Park - a character that was sadly cut from the script when the movie was released back in 1993.

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