1. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    To Name or Not to Name

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by TessaT, Oct 23, 2013.

    Alright, I have to admit that I'm a little miffed. Harry Potter was an international phenomenon in the writing world. The main characters will be remembered by generations to come. You personally may not have liked it, but you can't deny the fact that it was BIG. So, what would possess a writer to name one of their characters with the same name as one of H.P's MCs?
    Now, I think it'd be perfectly fine for a Ron or a Harry. Those are much more common names. But I'm currently reading The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, and I'm going along and suddenly 'Hermione' pops up. I... what? This instantly threw me out the story, because it's not a name that I've ever come across before Harry Potter. It was published in 2012, so still well within the Potter-craze.
    Do you think that it's acceptable for writers to ignore current pop culture, and duplicate names? For some reason, I almost feel offended (which I know is ridiculous), as if the writer ripped off the character (which I know didn't happen). But as the reader, I instantly connected this Hermione to HP's Hermione, and can't get rid of the imaginary that's already there.
    I'm curious what other writers & readers opinions are on this. Have you had it happen to you before? As a writer, would you change a characters name if it was already in a popular best seller?
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess, as a writer, I'd try to stay away from unusual names, period, and particularly ones that had become "iconic". But what if you were reading a book published long before HP and found that name? Or in a different genre altogether? (I'm quite sure there are 'significant' names in genres I don't read, and thus I'd be clueless as to popularity.) It would cause the same consternation, I'm sure. So I guess one just needs to make your character strong enough to overcome the name.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First name only? No. And it certainly wouldn't bother me if I came across a character in one novel with the same name of a character in another.

    In my current project, I actually have had to change the name of one character, a name I had come up with completely on my own, which happened to be the same as a real person in the time and place about which I was writing. Oops. Can't have that.
     
  4. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Well, if we assume that the name has been around since Pratchett started writing The Long Earth back in the 1980's, then technically he had it first.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It wouldn't bother me at all. I'd seen the name Hermione before Potter, and I've seen it since. No big deal. The name is, what, at least a couple thousand years old?
     
  6. graphospasm
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    graphospasm Senior Member

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    I read H.D.'s "HERmione," heard Jean-Baptiste Lully's Cadmus et Hermione, heard David Bowie's "Letter to Hermione," read of Hermione in Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale," and read the Greek myths about Helen of Troy's daughter Hermione long before Harry Potter ever laid claim to the name. There's even a character in a Batman episode named Hermione! The name Hermione no more belongs to Rowling than does Harry or Ron. The name is unusual by today's naming standards and trends, certainly, but it's by no means Potter exclusive or even terribly unheard of (my mother works with a Hermione, in fact). Your association with Harry Potter's Hermione is unfortunate, but saying authors should stay away from the names they love because someone got famous using one just seems... inflexible? Dogmatic? Dictatorial? Not sure how to put my feelings into words, here!

    Basically if Hermione perfectly fits my character's personality, I have the right to use it--associations or no associations.

    I do believe, however, that an author should be careful when picking names for their characters. If they pick a name like Hermione tons of people are going to think of Harry Potter, and they're going to think of Potter before Bowie, Lully, Greek myth, or H.D. Is using a name like "Hermione" a wise choice? Maybe so, if they'd like that association. Maybe not, if they didn't think of the association when they named their character. An author should always be sensitive to trends, but not to the point of having to edit their vision to accommodate those trends. Mixed bag all around, I suppose.
     
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  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Who cares...? Granted Hermione is a rather unique name, but who's to say it can't be used elsewhere? I mean, it's not as iconic as Darth Vadar and Yoda. It's just an unusual name.

    I wanted to name one of my characters Scheherazade and got shot down by my scam of an editor, when I still trusted him. Mind you, then I posted the question on this forum and 99% of the feedback I got was that if they came across such a name, they'd expect me to make a spin on it based on the name's implicated meanings etc. For me, it was just an ordinary name because I knew a girl in my school called Scheherazade :rolleyes: ah well. Said character no longer exists anyway lol.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're obviously too young to have heard of the wonderful character actress, hermione gingold!
     
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  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "She made brazen overtures to a man who never had a friend in this town until she came along!" - Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn (played by Hermione Gingold) in "The Music Man" (1962)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or Hermione Baddeley.
     
  11. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    Ha! I guess it's just a 'me' thing then. I am rather name oriented, though. Maybe its a latent fear that I'll have to change the name of my characters, that I searched for so long to find the right ones! Thanks for all the input!
     
  12. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I got hung up on this same sort of thing as well with my book. My MC Alésia Connor has a mother named Sarah. I got so hung up on the association between Sarah Connor and the Terminator that I ended up changing her moms last name to Adams and working a thing into my MC's background where Alésia and her twin brother Aaron were the product of an affair, hence the differing last names lol.
     
  13. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I think books that had a strong impact on me or which I really liked the characters will always evoke memories of other similar names.
    AJ, Andy, Serge, Alec, Adol, etc.

    I don't think authors purposely, well maybe some, steal names. It's just a coincidence that the name felt right or something.
    Now, if he had similar characteristics or the same physical look then....
     
  14. Fred
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    Fred Member

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    Hermione is indeed a very ancient name, and like many ancient names is less common these days. I would assume Rowling picked it because it suited the conservative environment of her books, and Pratchett picked it because it disrupts those connotations of privilege, posh and the past. But what do I know? I once wrote a story in which a principal character was called Charles Connor. As soon as someone shortened his name to Chuck, everyone started nicknaming him The Rifleman. I thought it was funny. No-one else did. It still lies unfinished…

    *sigh* I'm just a Timex watch in a digital age...
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    thanks for the reminder, cog...

    abject apologies to the spirit of miss baddeley, who was as goodeley an actress as they come!
     
  16. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    Huh. I'm afraid of the opposite: naming my characters common names because the small town people I know with common names would think that I was thinking about them when I named the characters. I actually had that happen once, when I was still in high school, one of my classmates looked over my shoulder while I was writing, then announced to the class that I had put one of the classmates in the story. I just said "Huh?" in a dry voice and looked at him like he was stupid. In reality, I had named that character long before I had moved to that town and attended that school.

    Needless to say, I changed the character's name to a more unusual variant after that... and so I give my characters unusual names, even in an implausible setting... though I still avoid iconic names.
     
  17. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    This is why i make up my names so that no one can come close to mimicking them, or i them by accident. Other than Ghoul, all of my characters names are made up. Examples:

    -Keitsumah
    -Batos
    -Arrcafah
    -Gunthran
    -Daxiim

    and those are just a few, but that's for another topic...
     
  18. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    My thoughts exactly. I mostly use the kind of names people just don't come up with by themselves, so I will know when someone steals my characters.
    And I really like your character's names, won't steal them though ;)

    To get back to the original post: I had it happen one time; someone used the same combination of names for two characters who had the same relation to each other as my own MC. It were two names in the beginning of a story I was sharing online (I took it down after a while because I got stuck with the plot). I have to admit I wasn't exactly happy about it, even though I knew the person probably hadn't read my story and the names were pretty regular names.
     

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