While researching names for my next book, I began thinking of all the names I’ve always loved from my favorite stories. What makes a good name, exactly? Does it need to have a certain sound? A particular meaning? A “feel” to it – happy, solemn, playful or fateful?
I came up with a list of several of my favorite names and tried to reason out why I admired them so much.
Thorin Oakenshield – now that’s a name! Thorin has such a powerful sound to it. And I love how Oakenshield serves to never let the reader forget what act of bravery this small dwarf performed to deserve such a great name.
Tom Pinch. With names like Pickwick, Peerybingle, Honeythunder, Tulkinghorn, Sweedlepipe, Turveydrop and Spottletoe, Tom Pinch may be one of the shortest and plainest names for a character that Dickens ever wrote. I’m not sure why I’ve always liked it. It’s honest and simple and a bit funny – just like the character himself. … I suppose I just answered my own question.
Meriadoc Brandybuck and, of course, his friend and companion Peregrin Took. Why do I like these names? Just say them out loud and you’ll understand 😉 But these two hobbits could change their names for all I care … they have my heart, regardless.
Ichabod Crane. Now, while I can’t greatly admire the actual character of this self-centered, superstitious schoolmaster, you’ve got to admit his name fits him to a tee. Ichabod is pretentious and humorous at the same time, and Crane gives us the image of a lank, gangling man – just, I may imagine, what the author intended.
Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah (or Bree for short). Bree is a rather stuck-up, know-it-all horse who could tell you anything you wanted to know about Narnia, despite the fact that he’s never been there himself. His name is long and horsey and rather affected, like himself, and it’s that similarity that draws me to it. Ok, also his name is just plain fun! But he’s lovable despite his faults, and in the end Aslan takes care of that pesky arrogance anyway … as he always does!
A-through-L. His mother was a wyvern and he has good reason to believe his father was a library. Therefore he is a hybrid – a Wyverary, of course. He knows all there is about any subject that begins with letters A through L, naturally, but if you want to know about anything out of his expertise, just ask his siblings, M-Through-S or T-Through-Z. Any questions as to why I’m in love with the very idea of this ingenious character written by Catherynne Valente?!
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. A name that is both daunting and playful, both strong and gentle. Who wouldn’t take someone with that name seriously? Who wouldn’t want to know him better?
Puddleglum. This Narnian Marshwiggle is possibly one of my favorite characters of all time. His name tells us about the way he is on the outside, and what we think of him from the beginning: he’s glum, pure and simple. But … the part I love the best is how, through his gloomy cynicism, he trusts Aslan more purely and single-mindedly than any other character in Lewis’ entire series. In the end, Puddleglum isn’t so glum at all, really.
If you are a writer, how do you name your characters?
If you are a reader, what are your favorite character names, and why?