>Occasionally I see a discussion on naming characters, and there’s usually the inevitable advice not to name your hero something like Delbert, Lamar, Harvey, Ralph, Eugene, Rooney or Avner because they’re not manly sounding or alpha enough, especially in romance. (Interesting tidbit is that both Ralph and Rooney are names whose root meaning is ‘heroic.’)
The consensus seems to be that names more suitable to heroes are on the order of Dirk, Lance, Jake or James, Brad, Scott, Cole, Adam and Blake. And further, if a writer chooses the ‘wrong’ name for a character, the reader won’t identify with him, or like him. I’m going to step out on a limb and say that’s true of any character, regardless of how manly his name, given the right circumstances.
For instance, if I read about a character named Thomas and that was the name of my ex-brother-in-law who beat my sister, it’s unlikely he’ll appeal as strongly to me as with other readers.
Additionally, I could name a character Adam, but if I portray him as an introvert who lives with his domineering mother, rarely dates, works as a flower arranger, is a neat-freak, comic book lover and wears his pants an inch too short, I ‘d have a hard time convincing any reader that he’s going to be the man of any sane girl’s dreams. Let’s just say, he’d need a huge character arc and serious help from What Not To Wear.
I think Shakespeare got it right when he wrote:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.
His point being, I believe, that Romeo’s appeal wasn’t in his moniker, but in what kind of man he was. What a concept.
I agree with Shakespeare. After all, who would’ve thought that Atticus Finch would be the name of a character women still see as a strong hero decades after Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird was released? For me, appeal is in the portrayal of the character rather than the name. Maybe it’s my southern upbringing, where men didn’t always have the manliest of names. Or maybe it was living next door to guys nicknamed Skeeter and Little D, who looked more like Paul Bunyan than a bug you’d swat.
My critique partner, Linda Winfree risks labeling her hunky, appealing heroes with names like Lamar Eugene (Tick)* and Delbert (Del)**, while some of her (initially) less appealing heroes are John*** and Adam. Adam is also known as ‘Fish’, which I’ve yet to decide whether that’s a plus or minus for the poor guy.
A mistake on her part? A tactical error which will hamper her career as a writer? I think not. Tick, Del and John’s books are among the seven she’s now sold.
No matter what their names, all her heroes are men who love deeply, who are loyal and trustworthy. They’re protective without smothering, value family, honesty, justice, and don’t get all bent out of shape if their women are a tad–or a lot–on the fiesty side.
What’s not to love?
So go ahead. Name your hero Percy and make me love him. I dare you.
* Hold On To Me, Samhain Publishing, Dec., ’07
** His Ordinary Life, Samhain Publishing, Sept, ’07
*** What Mattered Most, Samhain Publishing, available now.