Saturday, March 09, 2013

What Are Some of the Greatest Character Names In Fiction?

Harper Lee did a great job with Atticus and Scout Finch, but I am going with Boo Radley as her finest name.
You could do worse than Humbert Humbert too. What are your favorites?How important are the names of fictional characters to you?


George said...

Call me Ishmael.

Anonymous said...

Dickens did such a great job with names--Uriah Heep is my favorite. Yes, sometimes his character names border on caricature, but they're always so inventive. I like Hardy's names too: Gabriel Oak, Eustacia Vye, Bathsheba Everdene, Clem Yeobright. D.H.Lawrence had some good ones--Hermione Roddice, Gundren Brangwen, Constance Chatterley. The gift of choosing the "right" name to fit the character seems to be a dying art. If course, writers could take a page out of Graham Greene's book and name everyone Smith or Jones.


John said...

The names are incredibly important. I don't think many fiction writers care about that these days. When I wrote plays one of my themes was identity. The names I chose for the characters had a huge significance to the story. In fact I made a habit of discussing names, how they were chosen, how they shaped a character's life.

With that in mind here are my choices for names that have a lot to do with the character's identity: Ebenezer Scrooge, Honoria Dedlock, Uriah Heep, Hiram Grewgious, Alexander Bonaparte Cust, R. Daneel Olivaw, T.S. Garp, Major Major. Many fictional detectives have fabulous names. Two of my faves: Agamemnon Telemachus Plum in Corpses at Indian Stones by Philip Wylie and Peregrine Clement Smith, whose nickname is Pithecanthropus because of his odd apelike features. He appears in Murder on the Moor by Thomas Kindon.

Anonymous said...

George and Deb picked two I would have named - Ismael and Urian Heep.

Ignatius J. Reilly
Henry Standing Bear
Flavia de Luce
Bertie Wooster & Jeeves
Serge A. Storms
Sam Spade
Horace Rumpole

Jeff M.

Paul D Brazill said...

Dorian Gray
Holly Golightly
Nathan Detroit
Sky Masterson.
Frankie Machine
Bobby Peru
Vivien Lash

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dickens was the master for sure. I think sometimes a name comes to seem great because the character is. Seymour Glass, Alexander Portnoy, Nurse Ratched.

And not naming a character at all as in Rebecca can work well too.

Sookie Stackhouse is a good one.
Sky Masterson is brilliant.

Todd Mason said...

Comedy of humors names, however, only work in that context. Put me in the Greene camp if you like, but names which are ostentatious tend to pull me out of the story, unless some recognition of their oddity is included, and even then.

Jerry House said...


And almost any name concocted by Jack Vance, R. A. Lafferty, and P. G. Wodehouse.

David Cranmer said...


James Reasoner said...

Bond. James Bond.

And lots of other names from those books, usually of villains like Auric Goldfinger , Hugo Drax, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

James Reasoner said...

Donald Lam and Bertha Cool.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And Pussy Galore!

Naomi Johnson said...

Like James, I am partial to Donald Lam and Bertha Cool.

Dickens created such memorable characters and his names reinforced that. David Copperfield may be my favorite, though it's certainly not the most colorful. I think JK Rowling followed Dickens somewhat in the way she named characters in the Harry Potter books.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes actual names are just as good. I knew a woman named Minnie Martha Turnipseed.

Ron Scheer said...

Fun to read through all the responses. Maybe everybody knows this, but Damon Runyon got the name Sky Masterson from Bat Masterson, who lived his later years in New York.

Anders E said...

Not a literary character, but I really like Max Bialystok from THE PRODUCERS.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think he would count. Any character name from a work of fiction be in print, stage, film. For me at least.

Al Tucher said...

I agree about Dickens. "Murdstone" tells you everything you need to know.

And, David, you're right. "Spenser" is perfect. "Spencer" would be blah.