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Author Topic: names
babooher
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On Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants from July 5th, he talks about how some authors bludgeon readers with names. "A fellow named Adolf Butcher turns out to be a killer. A girl named 'Fey' was part elf."

I get what he's saying, and I generally agree.

But I wonder if something I've been working on falls into that. I've been working on a story where the protagonist is named Quick Vandoleer. That isn't a nickname. His name is Quick. His sister's name is Vaya. It seems natural, but using real words for names might fall under that telling thing.

Now, my oldest son is named Whit and my wife wanted to name our youngest Tad as both could mean small things. As a male, I thought that was evil and put the kabosh on her plans, but I see Quick and Vaya in the same light as they are thematically linked. I know some people who have critiqued the story I'm working on and a few mentioned changing Quick's name (although not Vaya).

So where is the line on this "telling name" concept?

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axeminister
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Look no further than OSC for "telling" names.

Once again I believe Farland is warning of the extremes, and not necessarily saying not to do something ever.

Gangs of NY. Bill Cutting, renamed Bill the Butcher. That's not a great example, but you could add "The" between a first name, then add the attribute.

Or have it be their middle name, and everyone calls him that. Mention it once in the beginning then be done with it.

Better yet, Achoo from Men In Tights. [Confused] Ha!

Axe

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babooher
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I have no problem with Bill Cutting being a butcher. If Bill Cutting was someone who promised to slash your debt in half, then I'd have a problem.

Did not many last names come from professions? Bill Cutting had to learn his trade somewhere, so it kinda makes sense.

I guess the first is a wink and a nod, while the other is a full blown pun.

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extrinsic
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I don't see "Quick" per se calling undue artless attention as a given name. I've known it used as a nickname, metonymy actually, meaning perhaps his birth was quick, or as he grew up he was slow or quick on the uptake, for metonymy examples. Also it's onomatopoeia.

"Vaya," Spanish for go, formal or plural second person present tense, and "Quick," their similarity means imaginative parents to me. I see nothing artless with using "Quick" so long as it develops Quick's identity, like expressing his parents were imaginative namers and how the name might have been received among his childhood cohort. Expressing either or both would make the name more memorable too.

[ July 11, 2012, 02:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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EVOC
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I sometimes like to use names that imply a future for the character, but I prefer to do it far less obviously.

For example in my Flash story "Death Watch" the Main Character's name is "Amadi" which means "seemed destine to die at birth" in Yoruba. You might guess what happens to him.

But on face value the name doesn't tell the reader anything. And unless they are familiar with name meanings, or bother to look it up, they won't know. I guess it is more of an inside meaning for the author.

As far as surnames go, I know there was a time they were derived from where a person lived, worked, or even their hobby. So in a Fantasy or Historical piece that would work. But I think in a present or future world, that would be lost. After all I would be a Florist if my last name had anything to do with it's meaning. And I don't know a person in my family that has anything to do with Flowers.

I think in the end it is only an issue if it distracts from the story. Names are easily changed. So if you write it in and it seems your Beta readers don't like it, you can always consider changing the names.

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Meredith
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As long as Quick isn't a pick pocket, you can probably get away with it.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
But I wonder if something I've been working on falls into that. I've been working on a story where the protagonist is named Quick Vandoleer.

So like, he's going to get pregnant?

Let's go back to first principles. If there's *any* element in a story that is bound to draw the reader's attention, it *must* have a plausible explanation. In S.P. Meek's 1931 sci-fi story, "Submicroscopic", the hero shrinks and visits a tiny planet orbiting an atom nucleus. This planet is inhabited by tiny humans who for some reason speak a dialect of Hawaiian, which remarkably the hero happens to speak fluently. Those coincidences would make perfect sense if the story took place in Hawaii, but it takes place in the Nevada desert. *Submicroscopic* is a cracking good yarn, but as Meek's Wikipedia entry dryly notes, his career did not survive "the higher standards introduced with the Golden Age of Science Fiction."

So, if you have an uncannily appropriate character name, there ought to be a plausible explanation. The character could acquire an after-the-fact nickname or nom de guerre (e.g.,Billy the Kid). He might feel the need to live up to an unusual name (e.g. a character named "Hercules" might find it necessary to spend a lot of time at the gym). His name might reflect the ideals of his parents, who raised him accordingly(e.g. his parents named him "Che Guevara" or "John Wayne").

In fantasy all those apply, but unlike in sci-fi names can have power independent of psychology, and tend to be indicative of character one way or another. In C.S. Lewis' *That Hideous Strength* the organization literally doing the devil's work was called N.I.C.E. (National Institute of Coordinated Experiments).

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rcmann
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It's hard to say. If a character is good with his hands, are you forbidden to name him Smith? I'd say just don't be blatant about it.
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Crystal Stevens
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Depending on the time period, it was common for the family name to come from the family occupation. For example; Smith for a blacksmith, Miller for running a grain mill, etc. I believe Mr. Card did this in his fantasy series about Alvin Maker.
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babooher
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MattLeo, I confess, I have no idea what pregnancy has to do with Vandoleer. I googled Vandoleer and up popped bandoleer, but nothing about getting pregnant.

What made the connection?

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Brendan
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My worry is that this naming issue is simply an opening for the Quick Whitted.

And I would like to point out the irony that David Wolverton's fantasy pseudonym is David Farland. And given his emphasis on transporting the reader... [Smile]

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rabirch
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Babooher, quickening is what it's called when a pregnant mother starts to feel her baby moving.
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MartinV
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...or when Highlander chops off someone's head. [Wink]
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babooher
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Thanks rabirch. I'd never heard the term (and my wife never used it for the belly behemoths she carried).
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Robert Nowall
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It's considered old-fashioned---ever looked at the names in a Dickens novel?---but I don't see why it shouldn't be used these days, but less subtly than "Adolf Butcher" or "Fey."

I'm drawn to the notion of concealing a joke in a name. I'm not certain of the exact story, but I gather sometime in the late 1940s in Astounding, a writer, for some alien names, used some obscure Turkish terms for...well, never mind about that, this is a PG board.

But I like the idea of putting a joke in that somebody might read and say, "Hah! I get it!" Certainly I've seen a few out there...

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Robert Nowall
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Damn. Should've said "more subtly."
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