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Slap VanWalla!

21 December 2010

Here’s something I’ve never talked about: character names. I tend to like stories where the characters are named like real people rather than those where the names are wacky and off the wall (exception: Thomas Pynchon). To me, it’s a lot easier to identify with a Travis or a Carrie than it is with a Peerless or a Contessa.

Look, I get it — you want your main character to stand out. But there are ways to do that, I think, rather than giving those characters wacky and silly names. The worst are the names that in some way describe what the character is going to go through in the course of the story. That’s like hanging a neon sign on them saying “I’m not sure how to write this any other way so my character is named Victory.”

Think about a really strong character from film — Travis Brickle. Now, that’s not too strange a name, but the way the character was written (and acted — got to give DeNiro his due) made him stand out as a completely unique and interesting character.

So, is it just me, or does the trend of wacky, story-pertinent character names annoy anyone else? What’s the worst you’ve seen? Or are there situations where you’ve seen it done well?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 December 2010 0711

    Oh, I dunno, Hiro Protagonist was aptly named and his name really didn’t annoy me too much 😉

  2. Lisa permalink
    21 December 2010 0712

    My personal pet peeve is when a female character is known by her initials to indicate that she is the “plucky and resourceful heroine.” Imagine if Mulder yelled “Hey DK! I need your help!” back in the day.

    • 21 December 2010 1018

      Yeah, that one’s really annoying. Good call.

      • 23 December 2010 1106

        BUT that also happened in real life. Almost no one in Earhart’s life called her Amelia… was always ‘”AE”

  3. Trace permalink
    21 December 2010 0758

    Castor and Pollux Troy from Face Off. Horrible.

    • 21 December 2010 1018

      When I first saw that movie, I thought “who the fuck names their kid Pollux?” And yeah, I know the mythological significance, but it was just really out of place.

  4. 21 December 2010 1048

    Montgomery Scott. He’s a Scot. See what they did there? Eh? Eh?

    • 21 December 2010 1136

      Yeah, but they only did that because the network rejected the character names “Hikaru Japanese” and “Pavel Russkie.”

  5. 23 December 2010 1108

    I will admit I’m guilty of this when writing for…shall we say…..a mass (read dumber) audience. The uber-short “Cautionary Tale” springs to mind…….

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