Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Extreme Character Names

I stopped by Seventh Sanctum to test drive their latest online name generator, Extreme Fantasy Names, and about laughed myself into a stitch over the results:

Chastity Solitaire
Curse Lord
Eternity Typhoon
Grave Amberviolet
Honor Rubyseeker
Machete Lanceknight
Opera Victory
Purity Roguelord
Reaper Killerhunter
Sheol Maverick
Song Rogue
Totem Grimdread
Valentine Talon
Warden Chaos
Warlock Shadow
Wind Direcaster

Actually I like extreme character names if they're single words (Machete Lanceknight might be really silly and over the top, but Song and Reaper by themselves aren't bad at all.) I also don't mind if an author uses extreme names that seem ridiculous to me because it's a personal style thing, and getting upset over it would be like me spitting on every woman who wears sunshine yellow (which I don't. I promise.) I'm also sure some of mine are just as laughable.

I gravitate toward unusual, rare and coined names, but I don't think the majority of mine are especially extreme. Still, I've been forced to rename five female protagonists and two males; the most common complaint has been that my female name choices aren't "pretty enough" and the male name choices are "too uncommon."

A bit of Darkyn trivia: if Jayr hadn't already been mentioned in Dark Need, my editor would have made me change her name to something else before the publication of Evermore. Another "it isn't pretty enough" situation. Still, despite its apparent ugliness, Jayr's name has (to my knowledge, anyway) never earned a single reader complaint.

The two extreme character names that are forever burned on my brain: Bellis Coldwine and Lovey. The first is one of China Mieville's characters, and while his Dickensonian approach to naming characters generally doesn't bother me, that one always crawls up the back of my neck like jabs of an ice pick. Every time I see it, I envision a barfly projectile vomiting a couple gallons of cheap Sangria. Don't ask me why, I just do.

I can't remember who had a character named Lovey, only that it was a romance novel. While it may not be considered by most readers to be all that extreme, my Pavlovian response to it certainly is. Lovey is what my least favorite relative used to call me during holiday visits as she was appraising how little I'd improved over the last year: Oh, lovey, that pixie cut is just not right for a girl with a big old face likes yours orYou should eat more, lovey, you're all knees and elbows. So every time I see or hear the name Lovey I want to go kick a nasty old lady in the shins.

How do you guys feel about extreme character names? Have you ever been tempted to christen a Chastity Solitaire or Machete Lanceknight in one of your stories? Any extreme character names permanently branded in your memory?

25 comments:

  1. Chastity Solitaire makes me think of a Bond Girl.

    I think the worst I've come up with are Summer Meadows (who is thirteen and terribly, horribly traumatized by the name her parents shortsightedly gave her), and Almeywinfreda, who goes by Meywin or Mey most of the time.

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  2. Hello! I just discovered your blog yesterday and I love it:)

    I have an extreme character name in the novel I'm writing now! My heroine's surname is Compost. I know it's weird but I'm not going to change it unless I really REALLY have to...

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  3. Wasn't Lovey the name of Thurston Howell III's wife on Gilligan's Island? Or do I err?

    Anyway, I have an enigmatic serial killer character by the name of Excalibur Jones, so extremes don't bother me; to the point that I can't recall any!

    And Jayr's name had purpose. It couldn't be pretty because of her lack of development and occupation. I think you got it absolutely right.

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  4. Actually I really liked the name Jayr. The name was unusual and it fit the character in its ambiguity. I had no problem imagining that the name had a historical feel to it which fit such a long-lived character.

    I love baby name books and researching meanings. A favorite character name of my own was Keturah Fortune.

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  5. I don't mind extreme names as long as I don't stumble over them trying to 'pronounce' them while I'm reading. I do mind when a character has an extreme name for the sake of having an extreme name and it doesn't really fit the character or the story.

    As a side note, your relative sounds just like my paternal grandmother! Are we somehow related? ;-)

    word verification: sackes, something I'd have loved to tie her up in and toss over a bridge...

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  6. I like odd names that stick with me. Generally my characters all have "normal" names, but three of my favorite characters I've ever written were named "Pepper Jack", "JuneBug" and "Toad". It just seems to give me permission to make the characters over the top when I give them extreme names. I have more fun with them. :)

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  7. I'd have to agree that Machete Lanceknight is the most appealing of the bunch. Except he'd have to keep telling people the final e is silent. It rhymes, he'll say in all seriousness, with Patch-It. And then he'll go galloping off on his Holy-Grail-esque invisible horse.

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  8. I actually really like Totem Grimdread. That just says bad guy to me!

    The extreme name that is stuck in my head is "Mullet Fingers" from the book HOOT by Carl Haissen. It was supposedly a pet name given to a boy by his step-sister but it didn't seem like anything a kid would make up.

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  9. Anonymous10:37 AM

    I think Ian Fleming was the worst for extreme names. The one that bugged me was Pussy Galore. I must admit that it did make an impression.
    You were lucky. I would have gladly traded your lovey for the piss ant that my aunt called me. the word verification on this could work Ghtscenti. It sounds villianous.

    Edie

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  10. Extreme name = porn name. Adds a whole new twist.

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  11. I admit, I loved Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash. The name made me howl. I've never been tempted to name a character Opera Victory, although that is a story all in itself. Victory through ear-bending volume!

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  12. I think unusual names are more memorable.

    Purity Roguelord and Chastity Solitaire definitely sound like Bond Girl names though. ;-)

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  13. I just sent this link to the English teacher in my family. I thought it would be a great exercise for her 7th grade students to write about the various names.

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  14. My first love is genealogy and over the past 14 years have gathered strange names of some of my relatives. One poor man was named Gottschalk Gottschalk, that's first and last name. Brookie Doviness Cox. Eugenius Tibbs was my third great grandfather and who I chose my name after. America Burgesser. Mazeffa Roberts (a man's name). Another of my great greats was Deliverance Conaroe, a name that was passed down, Dillie was the nickname. Her brother was named Darling, they were Quakers. Deliverance was married to Mnason Bowen, it's not a mispelling, that's how it was. My grandmother and her sisters were Vivian Floy, Cordonna Fern and Rowena Fawn and they all went by their middle names. Other first names I've come across are Rehmann, Lemual, Ellida, Roletta, Maleta, Lozelle, Osceola, Castilla (I like that one), Curilla Mae, Hepsibah, Kesia, Orpha, Thirza, Waitstill, India Ann, Alviri, Ola and her daughter Lurla, Beersheba, Ovid, Jehiel, Vera True, Lemoine, Azubah, Rosco Napolean, Trollis and about a million Permelia's, that was a popular name.

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  15. There are two from published work that stick out. David Weber has an evil dictator named "Rob S Pierre", which struck me as heavy handed.

    Dick Francis named his photographer-detective "Philip Noire". At least he always went by "Philip", and never just "Phil." That one just amused me.

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  16. I was tickled to see a comment above from Rosina Lippi because Miss Zula Bragg from Rosina's Tied to the Tracks seems to be etched in my memory. I love the name and the character has stayed with me.

    And I've never forgotten Pippi Longstocking, either!

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  17. Eugenia, that's interesting! We have a Gottschalk road here, named after the family with the first farm on that road. Not a common name!

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  18. Anonymous8:38 PM

    Personally,

    I'd take Machete LanceKnight into my verbal laboratory and slice and dice until I had something like.

    Mac Heat and Klancy Nighte.

    But then, I got flamed for trying out Quentin Parks. Heck, I was in a rush and it was ONLY a draft. How was I supposed to know every damn werewolf is named Quentin? At least that's what one person said.And Somebody else told me the guy's name sounded like a candy bar.

    oh well, all in good fun.

    Laurel

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  19. I'm all for extreme names if it fits the character, but I do admit I'm bothered by names like Chastity. I think the aversion developed when I watched that soap opera, Passions, a couple years ago. Every time I see names like that I just think: stupid heroine ahead!

    BTW, I actually thought Jayr's name is pretty. There's a poetic quality to it--though it might not be extremely feminine, which is also why I liked it so much.

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  20. What other name generators have you used or tried out?

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  21. nightmusic, are you in PA by chance? That's where the family landed about 300 odd years ago, give or take a few. Since then they've pretty much branched out in every direction.

    I know these weren't charactor names but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I think I have more trouble picking names for my charactors than I did for my daughter when she was born. I admit I have borrowed a few family surnames, it's better than going through the phonebook to find a name that sounds right. One charactor name that I liked was Sweeney from Linda Howard's Now You See Her, if my memory is correct. She hated her first name (Paris) and would only answer to her last name. The H called her Sweety and it took her a while to figure out what it was he was actually saying.

    I don't know if I like an ultra girly name for the heroine, but then it might be interesting to have a tough, kick-ass woman named Bambi.

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  22. @Eugenia,

    No, I'm in southeastern Michigan. This family IIRC, has been here since the mid 1800's. My in-laws are from PA though :)

    I didn't have any trouble naming my girls either. And yet, I'll spend hours and hours looking over names until one screams out ME!!Memememememe, use me!! I've had times where I just type in *** until I can get the name right.

    I've learned that characters don't like not being named. At least not mine *sigh*

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  23. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Just thought I'd share a name from a story I read once. I don't remember the title of the story only that it was horror and the character's name was Dream Weaver. I think the explanation was hippie parents.

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  24. I go for hybrid names like Cherapha or Lindsaille. I named a unicorn Pruwittt, and a mouse Bhari (which turned out to mean "lion" LOL) I named a sparrow "Pykfast"

    But I like to find extreme names translated into another

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  25. No extreme character names, but I know a girl named Treasure Hunt and another named Fantasy Raya Sunshine.

    Yeah.... somehow Song doesn't sound so bad.

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