Friday, February 25, 2011

Two for Four: Character Names

Recently spotted: characters known as "Four" in current YA sci-fi. Obviously, the title character in I Am Number Four is, and now Divergent which will be out in May 2011, has a love interest named Four. Who knew that seemingly unique character names could be so common? A few years ago, there was a little trend blip with "Kat" in Graceling and The Hunger Games. Other examples abound, I am sure, but the only other one I could think of was that I've seen "Pol" twice, but published very far apart, in Graceling and in the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star fantasy series by Melanie Rawn.

How important is a name? I recently changed a name I had very carefully chosen to be symbolic and part of a puzzle about who the character really is, but I changed it because while it was not exactly the same, it sounded perilously close to a character in a very popular, soon-to-be-a-movie urban fantasy YA series. I'm still pondering changing it back because it makes the most sense for the character, and it is actually different.

Sometimes the name is worth hanging on to, but don't get too attached if it isn't really that important. I changed a side character name in a picture book manuscript because it was pointed-out to me that another picture book was about to be released with the same kind of character (a robot) and exact same name, but as the protagonist and part of the title. I brainstormed a list of alternatives, and had so many that I liked so much more that I will re-name all the characters in the manuscript with names from my new list.

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