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Home » Books & writing

What’s in a Name?

Submitted by on April 22, 2010 – 12:17 am 5 Comments

I recently asked Robert Crais fans in the Craisie Town part of my forum how their feelings about Elvis Cole would be affected if he’d been named something else, like Larry Jones. Blogger le0pard13 said he probably wouldn’t have started reading the books if that were the case, especially if Larry’s partner was named something like Lev Coen instead of Joe Pike.

This got me thinking about how character names play a large part in determining whether or not we want to read or watch something. Can you imagine Mark Twain’s tale about Huckleberry Finn being called The Adventures of Herbert Melton? Would 007 be as popular if he introduces himself as “Luftenhoser. Stan Luftenhoser”?

I think for the most part, authors put a lot of thought into character names, trying to make the moniker represent the personality. Crais has said he chose Elvis for his P.I. to let readers know they’re getting someone a little different, not your typical hard-drinking loner detective. Michael Connelly has made known Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch is named after the painter who created visions of chaos because Harry encounters chaos at every murder scene. And I think the last name of Sophie Littlefield‘s Stella Hardesty sounds like “hard as steel,” which she is.

So, have you ever picked up a book simply because you liked a protagonist’s name? Ever shunned a novel or movie because you didn’t? What if Harry Potter had been Harvey Scarsburn?



  • Any book where the protagonist’s name is just too-too. I did read a book once where the man was named Glade. Swear to pete! I enjoyed the story but just never could quite see him as a real man, only as an air freshener.

  • EIREGO says:

    I did see a screening of The Beaver the other day and it wasn’t a porno. It wasn’t any good either.

    But I digress….

    I probably would refrain from picking up The Adventures of Herbert Melton. Sounds like a Wall Street insider who screwed over people. Consequently, I have no interest in reading the Bernie Madoff story.

    No, Bond would have to be Bond or something cool sounding like that. The same goes for my interest in a hamburger or hot dog as opposed to “processed animal meat with large amounts of fat mixed in with other animal bits”.

    I guess this is why marketing is so important.

  • Reader#9 says:

    Character names don’t bug me as much as actual titles. Stan Luftenhoser? Maybe it was a comedy. But, to quote Shakespeare…”a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”.

  • I love your alternate names, PCN ~ they do a superb job of highlighting how fitting the chosen names are. Bilbo Baggins is one of my favourite names!!

  • ARB says:

    Would not have picked up Harvey Scarsburn, but if the reviews were strong, I would be willing to rethink it.

    Titles like Diary of A Wimpy Kid put me off. So does Diaper Man. I know, these are probably really, really great works of literature, but more often than not, my instincts serve me well.

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