Timeless Characters And Their Names In Books

I was wondering why some characters and their names in the books become so famous and why some of them are completely forgotten even though the book itself may be quite famous. In some cases the title of the book itself makes the name of the character very famous like Harry Potter or Eragon but in other cases it is the strength of the character that makes it famous like Howard Roark in Fountainhead. But there are other books where you will find it very difficult to remember the name of the character. As an example, I do not remember the name of main character in Five Point Someone or Love Story. I guess it has also to do with the narrative style of the story as well. If the story is written in first person the name is used less often making it less memorable.

Is it necessary for the name of the character to reflect the nature? I guess not. I wonder how J. K. Rowling decided on Harry or Hermione or Ron. She has given lot of thought while deciding names of spells but she seemed to have picked up really common names for her main characters. Even the Bella of Twilight is a very common name. On the other hand, some books come up with very uncommon names like Eragon. Something that you have never heard of. If the name is so common, do we still start relating that name with the type of character if that character becomes famous. Will we think of very intelligent and sharp girl if we meet some real life Hermione?

There is another aspect of naming that I have found very amusing. When books are translated from other languages to English, the native names are still taken in and then it becomes difficult to remember those names like it happened with me while reading War and Peace. I guess many non-Indians will find difficult to remember names if they were to read Mahabharata in English.

I guess the naming of characters is a complicated process in the minds of author and mostly they also do not realize how it can turn around depending upon the success of that book.


Filed under Book Reading

14 responses to “Timeless Characters And Their Names In Books

  1. Unknown



  2. Satheesh

    On a related note, I find the same degree of discussions/thoughts/dogmas etc in naming projects/conf rooms/servers etc. A very good one that comes to mind is CDOT 5th floor CAD lab’s method of naming workstations after Asterix characters.


    • pkg

      I think a lot of it has to do with our desire to relate the names to something. In the example you have mentioned, it is just the case of finding a topic and name multiple machines in same way.


  3. Interesting post.

    J.K. Rowling had an intriguing way with names. Something like “Harry” is rather common, but then you have characters like “Remus Lupin” where the Greek mythology and etmyology of the name gives a hint to what they are like from the very beginning.

    As for Twilight’s “Bella”, I’ve always thought that Meyers was attempting to create a character with whom every single young girl could relate to and put themselves in her shoes – hence why Bella’s physical appearance is never explicitly described.

    I find naming character’s to be one of the hardest parts of writing a story, so I very much enjoyed your take on its importance.



    • pkg

      Thanks. I guess writers have some image in mind while creating a name and it has to match that image for them to do justice to character.


  4. Interesting post, especially your point about first-person narrative. Have you ever read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? In that book you are never told the main characters’ names. I found it very unsettling.


  5. I imagine the process is similar to naming one’s children. I have named 3 children, and it was a very big deal. I wanted something uncommon, but not spelled “wrong.” My first child was named (whether she had been a boy or a girl!) 8 months before she was conceived, and her siblings were named while I was pregnant with them, after much discussion between my husband and me. He had a bit of a unusual taste in names, wanting to pick names from Lord of the Rings or something like that.


  6. Very interesting post!! I like your thinking.


  7. This is a great post and a good topic to write about. It does seem that sometimes names are just more memorable than others. Maybe it’s because of the story, or because of you really connecting to the character; either way, there are some you’ll remember and others… not so much.
    In the end, I think it’s all a matter of perception.


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