Name Theory: There Can Be Only One

  • Katniss
  • Sherlock
  • Hermione
  • Atticus
  • Lolita
  • Gandalf

Chances are you know the title of the book these characters star in, or at least the gist of the story. You probably know the genre of the novels, a bit of the plot, and something about each of these characters.

You know them. Based on their first names only.

Like Madonna, Fabio, Cher, and Prince, a character in a well-loved novel who can go by one name adds an edge to word-of-mouth publicity that Tom (Ripley), Dick (Tracy), and Harry (Potter) can’t quite measure up to.

Especially in the Twitter world, having a fan (or even an anti-fan) tweet the name without having to mention the tittle of the novel or anything else about it, gives a greater berth to what can be said in 140 characters or less.

A tweet like, “Ima name my cat Gandalf cause he white,” is going to raise more interest in reading/purchasing the book (or movie) than a tweet like, “Jack is my hero.”

That tweet may lead to some lame conversation, like:

@illiteratenerd jack?

@jaxb Jack Ryan

@illiteratenerd math class jack

@jaxb NO!!! from the books

@illiteratenerd ??

@jaxb from Tom Clancy

@illiteratenerd wait… I think I know him.

But even with a conversation thread that no will want to read (especially not the participants), a name like Jack doesn’t have the same kind of memorability as an Atticus name.

I’m not going to advocate that you name all of your characters crazy names, and I especially wouldn’t encourage yooneek names with kree8iv spellings. I’m just suggesting that there is a time and a place, and a publicity reason, why you may chose an interesting and less known moniker for your lead.

Just don’t choose a name like Scarlet for your Southern or Irish character, or a name like Darcy for your male lead, unless you welcome unfavorable comparisons to well-known and well-loved characters and novels.

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