"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Top 10 Authors Who Come Up With The Best Fictional Character Names

Hello, guys! 


I hope that you're having a good Easter season and spring! Finals are coming up, so I thought I'd do a post before that all starts. I mean, you can expect a post the first week of May without a doubt (still haven't figured out what it is yet, but I'll come up with it.), but after that it might be quiet around here for a little bit. So, I thought I'd do a top ten list!

As the movie Cinderella (2015) says, "Names have power, like magic spells.". Characters are my favorite parts of stories, and while "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", there is something particularly influential when names go deeper than the surface with the names. In all of my writing, coming up with a character's name is something tied to the deepest dark inside them.

Then there are names that are undeniably fabulous.

Today, I'll be talking about both. I have noticed authors with a flair for monumental meanings in names, so I want to honor them today. And fangirl, because its what this blog is about when I'm too busy for reviews. Many of these are just books because I might get more attached to names when I read them. But that could be correlation not causation. Let's get to it!

There are NO spoilers for any of these stories. I'm talking about the introduction to these names we receive and might have hints for the future, but they will be too cryptic to understand unless you are a fan. Enjoy without fear of learning the endings for these characters! (I'm also talking about too many to get into details...)

Honorable Mentions: Agatha Christie (for the world-famous Hercule Poirot.). Rachel Kovaciny (for the eloquent swag of Jedidiah Jones).



10. Leigh Bardugo.

I've only recently (since June of last year?) gotten into Ms. Bardugo's books. I was not thrilled by the names in her Shadow and Bone series. In fact, it only messed me up. I'm trained from Spanish lessons to think that "Mal" means bad so I was biased against his character. Alina Starkov is cool enough, I admit. Though, the Darkling just feels cliche. I was quite happy with Sturmhond, which makes sense because he is my favorite character.

All this is to say, I did not consider her to be skilled or unskilled at naming. Just normal.

Then I read Six of Crows.

These names fit each character so deliciously. 
Kaz Brekker: Why does he do things? Just Kaz. Dirtyhands will break your heart.


Inej Ghafa: Also known as "The Wraith", she is always "on edge". 

BRILLIANT. I don't know if Ms. Bardugo intended those meanings, but I love how well they go with the characters. I also love Jesper (perfectly shows refined and careless simultaneously) and Pekka Rollins (just rolling with evil intent). (not that I love Pekka's character. We aren't talking about characters themselves because Nina and Mathhias would be on this list. We are talking about the NAMES). I am such a fan. I can't wait to meet new characters in Crooked Kingdom.


9. The STAR WARS writers.

This is a HUGE range because at this point there are probably hundreds of Star Wars writers who have contributed to the names and I want to give credit to them all. This universe holds so much potential and these writers step up to the task again and again. 

I first noticed that the names are EPIC while watching Clone Wars and meeting Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. Such an amazing name, am I right? After that I began thinking about all of the other names, and came to appreciate them in a new light (pun not intended, but I'll take it.). Luke Skywalker? Big and blusterous, sure, but LEGENDARY. (apologies, I don't know what it is with me and all caps tonight. This will probably not be the last time). Han Solo? A smuggler who's name is Solo? Love it. Leia Organa? The perfect name for a princess and a general. Obi-Wan Kenobi? It seems like a mess of letters, but he has my whole heart.

Moving on to the sequels (which, friendly reminder, some people actually adore, so easy on the backlash, okay?), they continue these amazing names! In a battle of light against darkness, you name the main character one word: Rey. Simple and poignant. Names have such power here, with Finn finding identity once he receives his name, and Kylo Ren's fight against the Ben inside him.

Not all of the names are the most significant artistically. Sure, Darth Vader was lacking, but this more than made up for throughout. Hello there, Ahsoka Tano?

All you prequels fans were expecting something else, weren't you?

8. Maryrose Wood.

Should I talk about her names when I haven't finished the series and stuff might happen to sour them in my mouth? What kind of an attitude is that!? I'm totally talking about them, because my not finishing the series is not from a lack of effort, just resources. 


Ms. Wood combines the "cottage core" and goth of Victorian England perfectly in names in her The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. Listening to the audiobooks is an absolute must to hear Katherine Kellgren say all of these names. 

Let's start with Penelope Lumley. Penny's so young but already has so many responsibilities as a governess, which the introduction of her and her name shows us. These books are bursting with amazing names. Charlotte Mortermir shows she is caring (excuse any misspellings. As I said, I only listen to the audiobooks.). Judge Quincy makes a shiver run down your spine. The darling children's where picked for convenience, but are nevertheless PERFECT. Laaaaaaaaady Constance is constantly thinking about herself. Agatha Swanburn is the epitome of education sophistication. Though, my favorite is three darling words: Simon. Harley. Dickinson. Which spells out heart throb, in case you were wondering.

Me, every time his name is said.

7. L. M. Montgomery.

L. M. Montgomery's writing itself is the most gorgeous I have ever read, so of course her naming skills are incredible as well. I love how she makes fun of fancy names by giving her most famous protagonist the plainest name she could come up with: Anne Shirley. Anne hates her name herself (Cordelia, anyone?), but lets her inner character shine through without frills. Am I saying the name Anne is boring? Not at all! I adore it. I'm just saying Ms. Montgomery makes it all the more magically as Anne comes to accept her name and herself.

Surrounding Anne, there are amazing names that can tell you instantly what a character is like. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Mrs. Lynde. Gilbert Blythe. Phillipa Gordon. My special favorite is Roy (short for Royal, you know) Gardener. How. perfect. is. that.? Each page is alive with characters and their names that stay with you forever.

When I talk about names I can go on forever or be concise like Thor.

The Avonlea Chronicles is my prominent read which consists of the above characters, but I also want to give a shout out to The Blue Castle. I mean, Valancy Stirling? Gorgeous and melancholy, which Valancy wants to reject as she wants to be full of life.


6. Wendelin Van Draanen.

Have I read enough of her books to be an expert in this? No, probably not. I've only read five of her books, and three of those were in the same series, so for the most part the characters were the same. Too bad I'm under qualified, because I'm going to talk about the names in her books anyway.


Starting off with my favorite: Bryce Loski and Juli Baker. Iconic. (I especially love Bryce's excuse about there being a bee tying into his name when the only bee was B-R-Y-C-E.). Though, those are almost the only two names that remained the same for the movie, as almost all the other names were given a more 60s vibe or something?

"Goodness, child! Are you alright?"
"There was a bee."
Who knew a medieval movie would provide real footage of Bryce?
I also want to talk about Sammy Keyes. I've talked about her a lot recently (yes, two months ago is still recent because that was only three posts ago). Samantha Keyes: such a fitting name for a detective. Unlocking all the mysteries, you know? It has a nice ring to it while being fresh and young.

As some of you may remember, my absolute favorite book I read in 2021 was Wild Bird. I read this book a year ago, so I don't remember most of the names (I also read this book in one day, so if I had taken longer the names would have stuck with me more, you know?), but I do remember being blown away. Names are SO important in this book. Our main character, Wren Clemens, has always been insecure about her name. Yes, its after the bird, now leave me alone. We learn that because of this she was able to relate and find a friend in Meadow, but that lead her down a very destructive path. Now can she spread her wings and fly again? LOVE IT. LOVE IT. LOVE IT.


5. Kate DiCamillo.

We're entering the top five, and who is better to lead us than Kate DiCamillo? She is the middle grade fiction QUEEN. All of her books change my life and are so powerful. Her names, too? Whether it's a pig named Mercy Watson or an animal control officer named Francine Poulet, the names are always highlights. How about a squirrel named Ulysses? A cynic named Flora? A toy rabbit originally named Edward Tulane who goes through other names as well?

"There is nothing sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name."


We cannot go through this post without talking about the sweet little mouse, Despereaux Tilling. His mother named him "despair" because he was the only child that year who survived. Can you image being named "despair"? What does he do with it? He becomes a gentleman. He does the opposite of despair; he hopes. 
"The story said she was a prisoner but that wasn't totally true because she had hope and whenever you have hope, you're never really anybody's prisoner." (this applies to Despereaux as well as Princess Pea!)
He fails all classes that teach him to be scared and has true courage. So chivalrous! This story alone is a gold mine for names. Roscuro, coming from the word chiaroscuro, the perfect name for an antihero. Can Ms. DiCamillo get a round of applause for Miggery Sow?

Did I purposely use a gif from a different movie about rats? You bet.
And the names in her Three Rancheros series? Still absolute fire. Rayme Clarke. Louisiana Elefante. And Burke Allen III? That one broke me and I haven't recovered.


4. Kent Davis.

He's only published the A Riddle in Ruby trilogy, but in addition to mind bending world building, his characters names are top-notch. Our protagonist's, Ruby, full name is Aruba Teach. I want that name! And her father is Wayland Teach? That name sails into illustrious status. (*laughs at own pun no one will get*)

But that is not the pièce de résistance. Are you ready to be blown away?
...
Wisdom Rool. 

Most. Epic. Bad. Guy. Name. Ever. Wisdom?? Rool?? I adore it vastly. (it breaks my brain so much that I can't even write sentences properly).

The kids in this book are so talented in so many ways, and their names are fantastic. You have Athen and Henry, then you have Cram Cramson. Cram is my favorite, guys. He is awesome. In later books we meet more. Like, Avid Wake?? Such a good name for a nemesis! Then the twins Levi and Never (or is it Ever? It kept changing on me) Curtsie. Gideon Stump. Each one describes the personality of the characters so well. I should come up with a more original way to explain this phenomena, but I'm gobsmacked, okay?

Also, Gwath? Perfect for a mentor even though we do not see enough of him. Or any of Evallina Puddledump. Sure, we never see her, but the NAME. The name cracks me up and I love it.

My reaction.

3. Lemony Snicket.

Mr. Snicket and I have a history that I have probably gone into in the past here or there. But, coming up with as awesome a pen name as Lemony Snicket, shows that he has talents for naming. Not just characters but locations, too. Lucky Smells Lumber Mills? Say that five times fast. 667 Dark Avenue? I mean, Lake Lachrymose? Meaning tears?


I mean, naming it A Series of Unfortunate Events told us that already.

But, I'm here to talk about the characters. You guys might have noticed that I love side characters who pop up very briefly. This goes for Justice Strauss, Captain Julio Sham, and Esmé Gigi Genevieve Squalor (just that last name, guys.). And the Denouement brothers? Are you Frank or Ernest? My answer is always yes. The fact that "quagmire" means "an awkward, complex, or hazardous situation" (according to the New Oxford America dictionary)? That describes the triplets perfectly.

Count Olaf has such a sinister nature to it (this was before everyone associated that name with a snowman), but what really got me appreciating it was the Netflix series. The "It's the Count" song?? "N for the knowledge cuz I'm very very smart." *dies*


Enough about ASoUE. I mostly want to talk about my love for the All the Wrong Questions series characters. Lemony is, of course, one of the highlights. There is also S. Theodora Markson. What does the S stand for? Silence, Snicket. Then you have darling Jake Hix and Cleo Knight (and Jake's aunt, Hungry. That always makes me giggle). Ellington Feint? Mysterious and determined. Moxie Mallahan? What a name for a junior reporter! My babies Pip and Squeak! There are two names of important characters that I cannot remember, so it must be time to read those books again.

My ultimate favorite: DASHIELL QWERTY (Possibly the best name ever). Librarians are the best. This series is good stuff mixed with dark curling tendrils of forgotten ink.



2. J. K. Rowling.

Regardless of quibbles I have with anything, Ms. Rowling slays writing characters names. And my experience only comes from Harry Potter. That name itself spread popularity like wildfire. I tended to scream in excitement even when it was the smallest character has a great name. I also like to think that I remember every name. The other day I panicked for a second while watching Goblet of Fire with friends because I couldn't remember Fluer's sister's name. But, the second passed and I remembered it was Gabrielle. Whew. And they weren't even out of the water yet.

Get ready for me to commence spewing epic names.

Oliver Wood.
The amount of times my older sister and I quote this is ridiculous.

Hermione Granger. 

Luna and Xenophilius Lovegood? Crazy and lovable and just as sane as I am. 

Severus Snape? Immediately sowed the seeds of suspicion with a name that is short and cold. 

Newt Scamander? Who is a magizooligist, dealing with magical creatures? Brill.

Draco Malfoy? Nemesis name perfection. 

Minerva McGonagall. Rubius Hagrid. Names that foreshadow brilliantly, like Remus Lupin and Sirius Black? Nymphadora Tonks. Good feelings with all of the Weasleys: Molly, Arthur, Charlie, Bill, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. (Yes, I said Charlie. Don't you dare forget him). Beatrix Lestrange? *shudders*. Viktor Krum. Gilderoy Lockhart? Glittering, but a locked heart. Dolores Umbridge. Dobby?? Pius Thickness?? That, friends, is my second favorite fictional name of all time: Pius Thickness.

I could probably do a top ten list purely for Harry Potter character names. Would you guys be interested in that?


And now for number one...


1. Charles Dickens.



Here, why don't you just watch the genius of this scene.

Then we need to see him saying the name again, because one can't have too many gifs, right?


Ebenezer Scrooge. It says everything about hating Christmas, regret, bottling up feelings and drowning them in piles of money.

Pip. Estella. Miss Havisham. Oliver Twist. Bill Sykes. Fagin. The Artful Dodger. Tiny Tim. Bob Cratchit. Sydney Carton. Try to find a flaw in this excellence.

But, whoa, MC, why does Mr. Dickens have the honor of being your favorite? Because he wrote my favorite character name of all time. From the book David Copperfield. Are you ready for it?

Uriah Heep.

What does that name make you think of? That's the character exactly. Slimy, scheming, unreliable. It is a perfect mic drop. I'll have to just leave you guys with it.



There you have it. What do you guys think of these names? Which are your favorite of the ones I listed above? What are your personal favorites that I didn't list? Who are your favorite authors who come up with the best fictional character names?

Have a great end to your April!

Chloe the MovieCritic

4 comments:

  1. This is an absolutely brilliant post idea, and I wish I'd thought of it first! 😅 (Jk. I was thrilled to hear your thoughts!)

    I'd never thought of L. M. M. being excellent at naming, but she really is! And names are important in her books, too, especially Anne's. (And I love Anne's kid's names, and their significance, as well!)

    Kate DiCamillo is also brilliant! I actually have a young friend named Mercy (she was born during the Year of Mercy), and the Mercy Watson books get read in her house a lot.

    And Kent Davis's names are brilliant, too! (This whole comment is just me agreeing with you, lol.)

    J. K. Rowling is the queen of writing character names (if Charles Dickens is the king), and even the ones which don't seem special at first have meaning behind them, and it's BRILLIANT. (And fun for Latin students, lol.)

    And Charles Dickens is Literally Brilliant At Names...it's not quite fair. Because his names don't directly tip their hand to what they mean, while SOUNDING exactly like what they mean, and it's INCREDIBLE.

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  2. The names are so important. I loved all the Crows too.
    I love when the author has a special knack for it.

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  3. I love a good alliterative name. They're so fun to say. I agree that Lemony Snicket has some of the best names in the biz.

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  4. Kate DiCamillo is going to do me in one of these days, I can't with her. Despereaux and Tulane are pieces of literary BRILLIANCE. (And her other stuff is so good, too!)

    Ooh, I wouldn't necessarily have thought of the Star Wars writers, but you're right! Practically every single name is awesome.

    And have to agree on J.K. Rowling.

    Really fun post! :)

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"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles