Friday, April 13, 2007

What's in a name?

Earlier this week Julia London blogged at Romance: Buy the Blog about the beauty of a man in a a suit, and then Monica McCarty at Fog City Divas blogged about the beauty of a man, period. To continue in the same vein, and get even shallower, I want to talk about names. Guy names.

From a writer's point of view, choosing the hero's name is really important. For better or worse, names pick up certain undertones, not always related to what the baby naming books say a name means. When a reader picks up a book and reads that your hero is named Horace, ripping abs and a chiseled jaw are probably not the first thing that spring to her mind.

Of course, sometimes all it takes is one hot famous man to make a name hot. George does not strike me as a 'sexy' name...except for George Clooney. Orlando made me think of that Virginia Woolf book or that sprawling town in Florida...until Orlando Bloom. Clive...I never loved it until Mr. Owen. It works in books, too. I wasn't fond of the name Stuart until I read Judith Ivory's Untie My Heart, and then...well, the hero of my first book is named Stuart. Same for the name Simon, which a friend of mine told me she associates with Simon Lagree, from Uncle Tom's Cabin, and she didn't think it was sexy at all. But read Julia Quinn's The Duke and I, I urged her, and she came around to loving the name, too. Just don't start thinking of Simon Cowell.

Why is that? Why does the name Sebastian make me think of dark, dangerous bad boys (like in Devil in Winter and The Rest Falls Away) but the name Albert doesn't? Why does Sam seem cool, sexy, and smart (Mr. Perfect and Sam Spade) but no such association springs to mind for Howard? Am I completely the victim of association-by-romance-novel when it comes to names? Because of course there can be smart, hip, sexy guys named Bob and Ralph, just like guys named Duncan and Colin are not, in fact, automatic hotties in real life.

So what's the worst hero's name you've ever read? Why did you hate it? Conversely, what are some of your favorite names, the names that come pre-packaged with sexy auras?

(and yes, I did have fun looking at pictures of guys named George, Oliver, Hugh, and Clive)


Sally MacKenzie said...

Okay, talk about juvenile, but there was a kid when I was in kindergarden who wet his pants--sort of ruined Scott for me. But then one of my kids wanted to be named Scott for a while...and a couple friends have nice husbands named Scott, so I got over it.

Hmm. And Benjie had warts--the rumor was he got them from handling toads.

Caroline Linden said...

The hero's name that worked LEAST for me was Wolfgang. I've forgotten nearly everything else about the book, except how un-sexy I found that name. Yeah, poor Mozart.

But Sally, Benjie could become a Ben! How does Ben strike you?

Sally MacKenzie said...

Hmm...Ben might be ok. How does Wolf work for you?

I confess, I stick to pretty straightforward names for my heroes.

And I assume these things change over time. Richard would be ok, and Rick and Rich (though not so much), but Dick? Will Dick cut it as a hero now?

Lois said...

The only one I can think of is Andrew, and that's only because it was my grandfather's name. Hard to imagine any young and hot hero when you have your grandfather's imagine in your head. LOL But the funny thing is, I don't think I have that problem with Edwards, which is my father's name. Maybe it's because we lived in the same house as my grandparents as long as I was alive, but my father wasn't around for most of that time. LOL :)


Eve Silver said...

I can't think of a name that's an automatic blech for me. But I definitely think that it is all in the hands of a skilled writer. Regardless of name, so long a I see the character through the author's eyes, see him as hot and strong and sexy, then I'll buy into just about any name.

Stephanie Feagan said...

I consciously gave my hero a pretty boring name - Ed - because the heroine had such a weird one - Pink. And to be truthful, I get tired of all the romancey sounding names, unless it's a historical. Great post - and you're so right, a name really says a lot.

Wendy Roberts said...

I read a book not long ago who had the name Fred for the hero. Although I've met a couple of really nice Freds, I just don't consider the name hero material.

meardaba said...

There was a boy in elementary school who was just "that kid", you know the one who gets picked on all the time, and his name was Keenan. I still can't like that name, but I really like the name Keagan.

Colleen Gleason said...

I don't really like the names like Wolf...I just can't picture saying, "Oh, Wolf, right there...touch me, right there...."

Or, "Wolf! How many times do I have to tell you to put the top back on the toothpaste????"