naming a character

potetjppotetjp Professor
edited June 4 in Author Workshop
[I made a similar post yesterday, but for some unfathomable reason, it has disappeared.]
As you know, I am creating samples of my sitcom Spiffies and Loonies by focusing on a character, and collecting all the scenes in which he/she intervenes into a booklet, such as Mrs. Hazel Twittle, Percival Stuffington, etc.
Now, when I started dealing with Robin, a promising teenage athlete who unfortunately becomes a hoodlum, I realized that he had no surname. I needed one for the title, and came up with "Sturgeon" - Robin Sturgeon, the rest of the family is Mr. Sturgeon, Mrs. Sturgeon, Adam Sturgeon and Minnie Sturgeon. A week later, as the making of the pamphlet was still going on, another surname came to my mind: "Hedgehop" (Robin Hedgehop). 
As you can see each surname sheds a different light on Robin. One cannot dismiss the importance of a character's name. How would readers see Mr. Micawber had Dickens called him "Mr. Frobisher"?
In general it takes me some time to decide on the definite name of a character, but once it is decided the character and his/her name seem to be inseparable and unchangeable. Is a character's name important to you? How do you come up with your characters' names? 

Comments

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    There are times when we want the name of a character to carry information about the character. Hazel Twittle tells us about Hazel: She has an older woman's name and she probably talks a good bit of twittle. One pictures her from the name. Blue hair, hunched a bit, frumpy yellow floral dress, and looking a bit anxious to say something.

     In the case of Robin, the surname Sturgeon is much more dignified than Hedgehop. Someone named Sturgeon suggests a certain degree of family dignity (though they share a name with a fish). Hedgehop is quite the opposite. We imagine an earnest but altogether juvenile sort of person.

    There are times when the name is merely a vehicle for the person, and it needs merely be typical. For example, I am currently writing a story involving a woman from Wisconsin surnamed Broderman (a name that might be typical there) who interacts with California residents surnamed Claremont, Silvio, Ramirez, Subrahmanyan, Morgan, Hale, and Trahn. Each of these is a name that would not be out of place in California (Though one would be demographically less likely to find a Silvio, Ramirez, Subrahmanyan, or Trahn in Wisconsin).

    These names were not chosen to reinforce personality traits, but merely to be typical of the setting. I try to avoid names that fit fiction formulae, such as some odd first name and a common last: Indigo Jones, Potbelly Smith, etc. though I am also writing a story with a character named Vowel Johnson (a reader's suggestion) in order to use titles such as Vowel Play, Murder Most Vowel, Vowel Crimes, etc. He is known to his friends as "O."

    Sometimes I pick names from fiction stories, other times from the phone book, and once from an online random name generator.

    So, in general... If the name fits, use it.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    edited June 4
    I see Mrs. Broderman as a fiftyish woman with pasty white skin with speckles that peels easily in the sun. She is often puzzled by Californians' behaviour, but takes it in her stride, and quickly makes plenty of friends. She would be the perfect witness of a murder.
    Vowel Johnson is a great idea. A man? I'd rather see the character as a sporty young woman (perhaps because French voyelle "vowel" is feminine). In a novel by Armistead MAUPIN the main character, a female dwarf, is forenamed Cadence (her parents are musicians). It fits her well.
    Thanks for your view on Sturgeon Vs Hedgehop. 
  • Hedgehop brings to mind a young boy of English decent. Not sure of the name's origin but I picture a young boy wearing one of  those English style caps and with an accent. Kind of like the redheaded bully in the movie A Christmas Story. 
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Hedgehop brings to mind a young boy of English decent. Not sure of the name's origin but I picture a young boy wearing one of  those English style caps and with an accent. Kind of like the redheaded bully in the movie A Christmas Story. 
    I also thought of hedgehop as a red-head, but I imagined a pudgy college boy easily swayed by his friends to mischief.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    edited June 6
    It's amazing how you two imagine him as a read-haired English boy. He is English from the start, since most of my characters are English (only a few are Americans). But "red-haired", that's interesting because in my imagination he is either fair-haired or light-brown. Whatever, thanks a lot.
  • potetjp said:
    [I made a similar post yesterday, but for some unfathomable reason, it has disappeared.]
    As you know, I am creating samples of my sitcom Spiffies and Loonies by focusing on a character, and collecting all the scenes in which he/she intervenes into a booklet, such as Mrs. Hazel Twittle, Percival Stuffington, etc.
    Now, when I started dealing with Robin, a promising teenage athlete who unfortunately becomes a hoodlum, I realized that he had no surname. I needed one for the title, and came up with "Sturgeon" - Robin Sturgeon, the rest of the family is Mr. Sturgeon, Mrs. Sturgeon, Adam Sturgeon and Minnie Sturgeon. A week later, as the making of the pamphlet was still going on, another surname came to my mind: "Hedgehop" (Robin Hedgehop). 
    As you can see each surname sheds a different light on Robin. One cannot dismiss the importance of a character's name. How would readers see Mr. Micawber had Dickens called him "Mr. Frobisher"?
    In general it takes me some time to decide on the definite name of a character, but once it is decided the character and his/her name seem to be inseparable and unchangeable. Is a character's name important to you? How do you come up with your characters' names? 
    The post got caught in our spam filter. Not sure why, but I marked you verified so it won't happen again.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    Thanks a lot, Paul. What happened might interest you. I saved my message, then posted it. Reading it again, I clicked on the wheel to edit it because I was not quite satisfied with a phrase. All things considered, after another reading, it was not that bad, so I posted the version without any change. It was at that moment that the warning message jumped from the screen stating my post would be examined by an editor (or some wording like that). Then my post completely disappeared. I checked for it the day after. It was still absent, so I concluded it was lost forever in cyberspace, and that I'd better write a new one.  :)
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    potetjp said:
    It's amazing how you two imagine him as a read-haired English boy. He is English from the start, since most of my characters are English (only a few are Americans). But "red-haired", that's interesting because in my imagination he is either fair-haired or light-brown. Whataver, thanks a lot.
    That might be the origin of your "Blonde Filipina" from Maitre Tace: We fit people into templates based in part on their names.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    I'm puzzled. Did I mention you my French translation of Lázaro FRANCISCO's Amá under the title Maître Tace, and how I saw the character Leonor in my mind?
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    I will often use the index to my world atlas as a source for interesting surnames.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    When I see the surname "Sturgeon" I am immediately reminded of the famous science fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon (and then in a mental hop, skip and jump, to his Vonnegutian alter ego, Kilgore Trout).
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    potetjp said:
    I'm puzzled. Did I mention you my French translation of Lázaro FRANCISCO's Amá under the title Maître Tace, and how I saw the character Leonor in my mind?

    You did, and we chuckled that several readers perceived her as a blonde though that would be highly unlikely in her culture.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    When I see the surname "Sturgeon" I am immediately reminded of the famous science fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon (and then in a mental hop, skip and jump, to his Vonnegutian alter ego, Kilgore Trout).Tro
    When I see the surname "Sturgeon" I am immediately reminded of the famous science fiction author, Theodore Sturgeon (and then in a mental hop, skip and jump, to his Vonnegutian alter ego, Kilgore Trout).
    Nice. I use Kilgore Trout as my own alter ego for CVS pharmacies' membership program. I find myself more and more in agreement with Heinlein's quote from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, that it is the duty of all free people to enter as much wrong information into as many databases as is humanly possible.

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