1. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Symbolism in Names

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zilly, Mar 3, 2011.

    I'm a big fan of symbolism, but I get annoyed when it pops up in a name. Am I the only one that is annoyed when a character is named after a greek god and it gives away some of the plot or when a place is named after some real location and it gives away what's going to happen there?

    How do you feel about it?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I think it's cool. It's a smart and interesting way to foreshadow. Not everyone will notice it though.
     
  3. juliuswrites
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    juliuswrites Member

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    I find it annoying too, if a character's name will reveal the plot or some small part of it I would much rather have them change the name than give anything away, I know that foreshadowing is an important part of writing a novel but when it gives away too much it can get annoying very quickly.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I find it annoying only if it's really obvious where the name came from. If an author is going to do this, I prefer the names to be based off mythology sources that haven't been used several times before. For example, I really like how Gaiman chose names in American Gods.
     
  5. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I usually like it, but like thirdwind said, it can be a little annoying if it's too obvious. One example I can think of is the name of the main character from Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. The book deals with the theme of "blindness" (in the sense of not realising what's most important to you until it's lost) with a protagonist called Iris Chase, whose initials are I.C. I groaned a little at that. :p
     
  6. Laura Mae.
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    Laura Mae. Member

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    I LOVE symbolism. I strive to use it in many aspects of my story, including character names and also names of places. Some people may think it shows you're trying too hard, but I think a little symbolism goes a long way. For example, my main character is called Aras. His name is loosely related to the Greek god of war (Ares), although this is not obvious at all really, it just sounds like a made up name. However, it helps me when writing as that character is part of a warrior's creed, but has suffered badly in the war and suffers from PTSD (obviously not called that because of the time period). This makes it quite ironic, as Ares was a true warrior, excelled in battle and symbolises masculinity. My Aras is all these things, but the fact he's the 'god of war' when he's a depressed soldier whose now frightened of combat is interesting.

    Sorry if I rambled, I just love this sort of thing. :)
     
  7. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heh, Gaiman did a good job of blending names in. I still remember Low Key. When his true identity became clear later on I groaned at not realizing it sooner. Why did I not see that? :)

    Names do mean a lot. If a character is named Gilgamesh or Sampson you don't expect that character to be a boring pig farmer.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use symbolism in my names but not sure how obvious it is. I love the way authors like Dickens and Hardy gave thought and used symbolism in their names.
     
  9. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Imo its a fine line between symbolism and realism.

    The MC is named at birth, so unless he is a Prince, or god, destined to a certain life, the name should be somewhat normal.

    Of course, if the parents are smiths, his name could be Smitty, or simple occupation names, without being unreal. Someone that makes arrows could be fletcher.

    I think it would be important to explain why a persons name is similar to the plot of the book.(again unless its obvious.) Son of a warrior would have a name of a powerful god (Ares, Thor, etc) A beautiful woman could be named as a godess.(Athena,etc)

    The most sybolism I used, I used elven parts of words to make up names of my MC's in one book, their name if looked up online would hint to their true identity. The names flow, and until the origin is told, I doubt anyone would think about what they mean. (I know there are people out there that know Tolken's elven, so some might actually get the hint) But the parent could have named them without being key to the story.

    Symbolism is good, but make sure realism prevails.
     
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Having obvious names as symbolic is something I've never liked, but having names just because they sound cool is something I'm really beginning to hate. I hear the name 'Dante' over and over again from friends who are wanting to start writing.
     
  11. Rawne
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    Rawne Member

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    I actually laughed out loud at that. I see that a lot, too.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually I deliberatly include the odd name that seems to be popular with authors right now - I did reject Anya as too popular using it as a pen name instead. I do however have a Nate, Angus seems to be picking up as well.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but the name can still be symbolic because of nominal determinism. They turn out to be the way they do and to do the things they do because of their name.
     
  14. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    True. That is a part of making it real. If it fits in the story, thats all that matters. I never consider the story when naming my MC's, except the one I mentioned. Just because I don't want to have the name reflecting the story when it is years after he/she was named.
     
  15. Dauracul
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    Dauracul Member

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    I use it. But I try to bury it deep, so that if you want to look these names up, and end up coming across some sort of existing mythological figure whose actions, abilities, or story related to the character in question, kudos to you. But its not entirely necessary. The ones I actually use are far from common ones, usually angel or demon names.

    The most common one I actually use is probably Thanatos (Greek, death), but considering the things he does, his name won't reveal much of anything when its discovered.
     
  16. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    And Tristan! So many people use that name! It's annoying.

    Anyway, I think the only time I've ever used symbolism in a name is my character Lucille (light), who happens to be the (rather litteral) light at the end of the story.
     
  17. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most of my names are just that. I have only ever used two names from Greek Mythology. Nemesis and Artemis. Artemis is the name of a character. I suppose I used it because of 1) The character started off as a bounty hunter of sorts(Artemis the Goddess of the Hunt among other things) and 2) I just really love that name.

    Nemesis seemed appropriate as an Alias for one of my characters because he has a rather high opinion of himself. Nemesis was the Goddess of dvine retribution/revenge for hubris or whatever. My character is a hacker who views the use of technology in a negative way a crime compared to murder. Technology, the Internet, should be something used for the good of humanity. Of course his real name is just Jason Young. In which there is no hidden meaning except I like it and I like the name Nemesis.

    The rest of the characters are just names I love.
     
  18. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    I'm glad that I made this thread. I always felt like names should just go with the story.

    Thanks,
     
  19. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, it gets worse! I used to play Vampire: the Masquerade with friends. One night before gaming we watched the Matrix. One player in the group scrapped his character so he could make a new one named Neo Trinity who dressed all in black, with a black trenchcoat and wore sunglasses. At night.

    The entire group groaned at that.
     
  20. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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  21. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're not cool unless you wear sunglasses at night.
     
  22. night breeze
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    night breeze New Member

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    Symbolism in names can definitely work. I agree that Gaiman used it well in American Gods. Kerouacs' character Carlo Marx in On The Road is another example of success in name symbology. I'm not sure how he made it ring so superbly. Maybe it works because the symbolism is so obvious it seems unbelievable therefore creating a sense of doubt regarding his intentions. Kind of like waking in bed entirely covered in a glistening sheen of teriyaki marinade and immediately assuming you must still be dreaming.
     
  23. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, don't you hate when that happens?
     

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