What’s in a Name?
As I sat down to pen a short story I got a little stuck (as I always seem to) when attempting to come up with a character name. The lady I had in mind seemed to demand a sort of old-fashioned name. I sat for a while going through the options, Ethel (after my beloved Grandmother), Eva, Guinevere… and then a name popped into my head. It was perfect, it suited her no end. There was only one problem—that name was Hermione.
Now, in reality, there is nothing wrong with that name, but unless you have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, you will know why I cannot use that name.
The success of the Harry Potter books is second to none. Interestingly, I would have no issue using the name Harry (or even the name Ron) as a character name, although I would hesitate to have my version of a “Harry” who wears glasses, or a Ron with red hair. Those names are still usable to the rest of us primarily because those are more common names in general. But Hermione? No. I guarantee you, that any writer who might have considered choosing that name for their character will now avoid it. Even to someone who has never read the books (as I will admit to never having read them), I know that the name is now synonymous to one character and one alone. You can’t unpick the link between the two and if you dare to use it in some act of defiance against popular fiction, I promise, a bunch of people who read your story will struggle to consider your version of a Hermione as a separate entity from JK Rowling’s contribution, and one must always consider the readers point of view in such matters.
I greatly admire writers who can come up with reasonable and memorable made-up names for their characters (and I’m secretly grateful to them for doing so). Consider GRR Martin’s plethora of wonderful names, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion and Tywin Lannister et cetera. Or perhaps imagine the offerings from The Hunger Games—Katniss Everdeen and Effie Trinket. I’m not sure many authors will shed a tear because they can’t use names such as Bilbo Baggins or Gollum.
We all long to be different. We want our work to stand out among the crowd. I would love to have my books become so popular one day that other authors avoid using the names given to my characters. We can’t all be that fortunate though, sadly. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be unique. So what if Hermione is off the menu? There are plenty of others to choose from, and if you don’t like any of those, then you can always make up one of your own.
[bctt tweet=”One must always consider the #readers point of view. #writingadvice #read #ourwriteside” username=”OurWriteSide”]
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the name I settled upon in the end was Ada. I actually like it more than Hermione.
Have you written anything to end up having to change the name because a reader told you it made them think of another character? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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