Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What's In A Name?

Characters sell books. I’ve heard that phrase many, many times. While some may debate whether it’s fact or fiction, it made me want to break down characters to their basic parts. What makes a character likeable?

On April 22, I posted a survey on Poll Daddy to determine what character traits people automatically assign to individuals based on name alone. Out of context, without any “voice” or physical description, what comes to mind when you’re given a name at random?

Having a couple friends who are teachers, and bantering about this survey with the other GotYA bloggers, it’s been proven to me that certain, common characteristics are attributed to people with the same name.

For example, the name Brad. (If your name is Brad, skip ahead.) Talking with several individuals, it’s a common conception that Brad’s like the ladies…wink wink.

Please understand the purpose of this study was to play a type of word association, not to label people with certain names by certain character traits. This is by no means scientific. My sample size is 91. This was done to show that picking a name is just as important as giving your character his physical traits and dialogue. If you name him Barnaby and you want him to be taken seriously, you have an uphill battle ahead of you.

Use the baby name websites and look up name meanings, but the most important research you can do is to just ask other people what they think of the name you’ve chosen. Just because your main character shape shifts into a warrior grizzly, doesn’t mean you should name him Humbert based on etymology.

Five names, fifteen questions. Here are the results!

15 comments:

Debra Driza said...

Thanks so much for doing this survey and posting the results, Jamie. I have a heckuva time naming my characters--it's honestly one of my least fave parts, bc it's soooo hard to get it just right.

Also, there was just some study recently showing that teachers associated certain names with troublemakers, and guess what? My son has one of those names.

*headdesk*

Jill Wheeler said...

Fascinating!!

Debra, is your son named Tyler? I'd like to see that study!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

When I try to come up with names, I ignore ones that have a certain connotation in my mine, or pick them because of that reason. For me, it's part of the process of narrowing the daunting list down to size.

Annie McElfresh said...

AWESOME POST!!! LOVE LOVE LOVED The Vlog!! It's crazy how my brain functions like most peoples. LOL

Debra Driza said...

Jill, no, his name is Connor. I'll try to look up the study and send it to you or post it in the comments--there were several names on it.

Krista Ashe said...

I loved this poll, and darn school has blocked the video part. Rawrr. Looking forward to seeing it after school.

HAHA, Deb, I do sometimes associate certain names with troublemakers, but I think it comes from it being a popular name. And I've had some real doozies named Conner BUT it is a very popular name,like on the top 10, so it's really not conclusive data. I happen to like the name myself, lol.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Very cool survey and video to accompany results. Interesting the things we associate with people's names. Great post!

Becca said...

I'm officially Jamie's #1 fan now. WOOOO! More vlogs!! XD

I thought this was really interesting. I actually discriminate against some names because they sound too young or too old for my character. But I'm big on finding name meanings. They have to mean something or they aren't used.

Hmath said...

Great poll!

Becca said...

Most of those results were exactly what I was thinking, except for Isiah, which I think of "Amish." (Maybe it's because I live in the middle of Amish country.)

Jamie B said...

Connor is the trouble maker name, huh? What about Ethan? Cuz he's definately in trouble A LOT!

I need to sleep more before vlogging - holy cow nice black bags under the eyes - look like the walking dead. Just add sparkles.

Leah said...

Wow, that's really interesting. It's funny to see how we all look at names differently.

I went with the majority of voters on only one person, which was Tiffany (Sorry Tiffany's out there), which was based on my own personal experiences with Tiffany's. I was minority on the rest.

Becca Cooper said...

Darn! Can't believe I missed the poll part of this. But awesomely interesting idea! :)

Kathleen said...

I so can't use placeholder names. I can sort of work on an outline but I can't actually write until I know the characters names and, if I've named a character badly, it drives me crazy until I find the right name.

J.S. Wood said...

Awesome! And you looked amazing :)