The names that writers give their characters can often determine what type of people they are. If a person had the name Irvin Garfarckle, what type of person do you think he would be? Does it sound like someone you would trust as your lawyer? Or does it sound like someone that might not be considered properly dressed if he wasn’t wearing baggy pants and clown shoes?
I write a lot of science fiction and coming up with weird names is easy. I wrote a book about missionaries that were sent out from the Newgate Baptist Temple to other dimensions and only one person didn’t have a strange name and that person was someone who lived outside Newgate which is a city founded by people from another dimension. One of the missionaries was Wallen Dost who went to a dimension where fishing boats were sent out to catch sea monsters that were processed for food. The android that went him was named Nok. He was three times stronger than the average android so I decided the name Nok was a nice strong name.
Two characters I like the names of are Ramshief Hoorganvisor and Drozin Kanfibulac. The first man has a coat that has two interdimensional portals in it. If he puts his hand into one of them he can pull out a device, he needs. If he puts his hand into the other, he can pull out a gemstone that comes from a dimension where they are as common as quartz rocks. In one of my stories he tells his friend Drozin Kanfibulac that he bought his condo near New York City’s Lincoln Center with two large gemstones that he sold to a jeweler in Manhattan.
Drozin Kanfibulac aka “Mr. Amazing” describes himself as the Swiss army knife of superheroes since he has so many abilities. Like Ramshief Hoorganvisor he too is from another dimension. That is why they both have strange names. Names like Harry Jones and Bill Morgan would not be appropriate for such unique characters. Also, the names are memorable. If both men are known for what they do, readers should know who they are. They shouldn’t be confused with other characters.
When I say the name Dirty Harry, you think of Clint Eastwood as the meanest cop in San Francisco and his 44 magnum revolver. Up until then he was primarily a western star. But when he gave his speech about the 44 magnum to someone he had the drop on, he knew he had gone from being an actor to a star.
Sometimes writers pick average names that become famous. Ian Flemming chose the name James Bond for his MI6 agent 007 because originally he was the writer of a bird book and an ordinary man. Maybe Flemming thought the name would be off-putting to the bad guys he met in the line of duty. But he chose interesting names for the people James Bond confronted. Ernst Blofeld was his archenemy in so many Bond movies and inspired Mike Meyers to become Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. And who can forget Odd Job in “Goldfinger” or Jaws with his steel teeth in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker?”
The choice of names for superheroes is relatively simple. Ironman might not be technically correct because he isn’t made from iron. But if he had been named high-tech alloy man, that might have caused some snickers from audiences in the theaters. Superman and Batman are obvious names along with Spiderman and Aquaman. The first three of the quartet are popular Holloween costumed characters for three and four year-old boys. This year a lot of little girls will want to dress up like Wonder Woman and Bat Woman because they are as tough as the guys. The creators of those characters might not be known. But the fans of those characters and the universe of other superheroes are grateful for them.
My superhero is Mr. Amazing. His given name is Drozin Kanfibulac. Writers at times have back stories for their characters and how they get their names. Spiderman became Spiderman because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Captain American started out as a scrawny kid that was transformed into an enhanced human that we know as Captain America. Wolverine discovered he was immortal and had retractable claws that were replaced by ones that were made from a nearly indestructable metal.
The back story for my superhero is this: He had spent the day impressing his future editor at a graphic novel publication called WOW when he decided to have dinner at a fast food restaurant. As he was eating his dinner, a gang came in to rob the place. Since he had the ability to change his appearance, he changed into another person and approached the leader of the gang and told him it was wrong to rob restaurants. Of course he was shot by the guy. But his personal force field vaporized the slugs. He promptly discharged his field and knocked out the gang members before knocking the leader down. When the restaurant owner came out from the back he told him he was amazing, absolutley amazing. The name stuck. I intend on writing a second book about him as he fights demon wolves in Central Park, marries a woman from his church, and takes a world tour performing in concert halls and on opera stages as well as doing superhero activities during his honeymoon. His friend Ramshief Hoorganvisor is not only his tech guy but his booking agent.
A common mistake some science fiction writers make is giving their character’s names that are too weird. Just because a character comes from another planet doesn’t mean he should be called something like Xantron or Zargus Ra. They might be from war-like societies. But what if the name of an alien scientist is Sulon Dray Quon? What is the back story for it?
The man is from an advanced race of people that have the ability to merge their minds as a collective to solve the most difficult problems. His family name is Sulon and he comes from a region of his planet called Dray. His name Quon was the choice of his mother who had a favorite uncle named Quon who gave her candy when he saw her. Quon was the equivalent of 38 years of age and had been a scientist for most of his life. His biggest accomplishment was to safely navigate through an asteroid field without having any of the ships become damaged.
Writers don’t need to give all their characters elaborate histories. I try to follow some rules when I name characters. I give the males masculine sounding names even if they sound strange. Gavist, Thuron, Raaveen, and Meer are examples of strong sounding names. For females I give them softer sounding names like Maileen, Shala, Estra, and Hura. I like ending female names with a vowel when I can. Hard sounding letters sound more masculine to me. A female that has a name like Raith would be the equal to a male as far as toughness goes. But she could still have a femine side that would appeal to confident men who view women as good friends and not sexual objects.
Would you name a child of yours the same name as one of your characters? If I had a son I might be tempted to name him Ramshief; Ram for short, or Drozin. Wallen is a nice name too. If you wouldn’t name your daughter Butch, try not to name one of your feamle characters Butch. If you wouldn’t name your son Lisa, don’t name one of your male characters Lisa. If you become a famous writer, you don’t want to be interviewed by a TV host in front of 10 million viewers and have to explain why you gave a “boy’s” name to a female and a “girl’s” name to a male. Also, your characters should live up to their names even if they are weird names. Just don’t expect a boy named Sue to get respect. Johnny Cash might have been willing to do it in a song. But don’t expect respect from readers if you missname your characters. If you couldn’t live with the “wrong” name, don’t force your characters to live with them. You can change your name, but your characters can’t once they are estabished in the literary world. I can’t imagine Ian Flemming considering the name Horace Farquar for 007 unless he wanted to kill his enemies as they were rolling on the ground laughing.
Image from Reston Bible Church