Blogger Panel: Do Character Names Bias Us?

Hi everyone! Welcome to this week’s Blogger Panel here on Adrift on Vulcan! Today’s panelists are:

Amber from Mile-Long Bookshelf

Nara from Looking for the Panacea

Becca from Nawanda Files

Hazel from Stay Bookish

Thank you so much for joining me, ladies! This week’s question is…

Do the names of characters bias your opinions on them? Why or why not?

Amber says…

No, I don’t think names of characters effect my opinions of them. It fully depends on the character’s personality. If I don’t like a character’s name, but the character is really likeable, the character will probably end up changing my opinion on the name! However, knowing me, as soon as this post goes up, I’ll read a book where the name of a character does change my view of them! 🙂

Nara says…

Personally, I don’t think the names of characters really bias my opinion of them as much as other factors. I mean, I guess it’s not as if a character chooses his/her own name! So, for example, appearance or personality would be much more likely to affect my opinion of a character. However, there are definitely circumstances where you might judge a character based on his/her name. Think about the book The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. The main characters in that book are named Sophie and Agatha. Who seems more likely to be the witch and who seems more likely to be the princess? It’s pretty obvious. BUT there’s definitely a limit to that judging. Once you’re actually introduced to the characters, you find that Sophie is vain and selfish, and you find that Agatha is kind and brave. Now who seems more likely to be the princess/witch?

While the names of the characters probably don’t change my opinions of them, I’d say that the naming may affect my opinion of the author. I was talking about it with Chantelle (my coblogger), and she was saying that she’d probably judge the author if there was a character in, say, a high fantasy novel whose name was Bob. Sometimes there are particular names that just seem out of place in certain settings. Like a character in a contemporary novel named Cloud would be weird, but may be perfectly acceptable in a high fantasy. Actually, now that I think about it there would definitely be certain names which would make me judge the author. Like if a character had the name “Apple” or “Barbie” I’m definitely like “the heck was the author thinking?!”

Becca says…

Names of characters don’t usually affect me. There are no names that really crawl underneath my skin or make me look at a character differently. Sometimes it’s hard to read a character with my name, and it takes me a bit longer to connect to them. But names really stick out for me when they expose a twist in the book. Most recently I read a book where the last names were water names like Marin or Sea-something-or-other. Most of us know enough simple Latin to uncover roots of words, and if say, a human has an under-water name—that’s a big red flag that maybe he’s not so human after all. And it pretty much ruined the whole twist. Same thing happened in another book where a guy has a name really close to Lucifer. And it didn’t take that much thinking to realize he was the big bad. Have you read a book where the names gave away a significant twist?

 Hazel says…

First of all- I find this question very interesting. I’m the type of person who appreciates names, especially when they’re names of book characters! In my opinion, names are crucial for a character to be different, distinguished and memorable. But do they affect my opinion of the character? No, I don’t think so. Character development is still what I base my opinion of characters on. However, names do give impressions. If a book character was named Bill Bonkers, wouldn’t you think he was probably a little uhm.. bonkers? We usually assume that awkward names are for geeks, common names are for the non-extraordinary. And of course, swoony names like Etienne St. Clair and Noah Shaw are for hotties. Eccentric names like Echo and Katniss appeal and interest us as well. Even cool nicknames like Four have some impact. What I’m trying to say is- names can represent characters and make them attractive. Having said that though, I remove these prejudices, dive into a book and then judge characters by their personality in the story. If I disregarded characters just because I found their names weird, I wouldn’t have gushed over Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door or Rusty from In Honor!

Over to you!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of the panelists? Do the names of characters decide your opinions on them? Speak your mind below!

What is the Blogger Panel?

The Blogger Panel is to provide help and a little bit of an “insider’s scoop” into what bloggers/reviewers think about certain things in a book, OR anything book/blog related. I’m also accepting questions from YOU! The questions can be about anything – books, authors, book blogs (advice, etc.) – just as long as it is book related. Please remember, this isn’t an interview with bloggers, so do refrain from asking simple questions you’d ask in an interview.

If you want to join the next Blogger Panel, but don’t want to submit a question, select “Yes” in the form and leave the “Question” area blank. I’ll be looking for up to four people for the next panel. If you’re accepted, look out for my email and the question!

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*This post is linked on the Let’s Discuss feature hosted by Oh, Chrys and The Fiction Conniption*

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25 thoughts on “Blogger Panel: Do Character Names Bias Us?

  1. Sure, there are creepy names however, if the author is a good writer, their likeable personality will make me not really care about the name, even if it was a Bob or Fairy Petunia (okay… those were bad examples…)

    Fab post, ladies! <33

  2. Hmm interesting blogger panel! Character names don’t affect me at all though I might raise an eyebrow at how peculiar a name is and how I can’t pronounce it properly haha but it won’t affect how I see the character. If a character has a name I like well maybe I’ll kind of like them before I know them but it’s not too much of a bias? Haha. But I think some people might, I have a friend who has had bad experiences with people with certain names and good experiences with others. So if a person has this name she doesn’t like, she’ll already have a bad impression of the person. I have never had this experience before but it was interesting when she told me.

  3. Oooh, great topic for the panel today, Megan! I have to say, I agree with Becca. If a name gives away who/what the character is supposed to be (and that is supposed to be a surprise), it can really ruin the experience for me. Aside from that, I’m not really sure that character names create any sort of bias in my mind, either.

  4. I think they do. I just read A House Divided by Kimberla Lawson Roby and there was a name in the book “Curtina” that was like finger nails on a chalkboard to me. Really! Curtina! (father’s name is Curtis). Just typing it now is pissing me off. LOL! But most of all I think the bias is not a major factor but it is there. How could it not be? Honestly, people make that bias opinion everyday in life about other peoples names, clothing, skin color, age. It a human survival instinct. Think about it. You judge a person the minute you meet them to see if they will be a threat to you.

    When I read a book the characters name kinda matters to me. The step sisters in Cinderella have ugly names for a reason.

  5. This is an interesting question! Generally, character names don’t really sway my opinions of the characters themselves. There ARE instances when I think names should be different purely for the selfish reason that I don’t personally like them, but they don’t actually play a part in whether or not I’m more or less likely to like a character. Generally, though, if the personality is wonderful enough, I probably won’t have anything to say about the name at the end of the day.

  6. I definitely agree with bits and pieces of all these answers.

    Names form pictures. If I said ‘Aggy’ walked into the room then mentally you’d see a different character than if I had said it was ‘Mrs Agatha Sibley’.

    But how you portray a character’s deeds and intentions definitely has an effect on how people see your character – I loved the point someone made about Cricket. Before Stephanie Perkins came along I bet few readers ever thought they could fall for a guy called Cricket, but afterwards…

    Romily Bernard dropped by my blog earlier this month and talked about some of the problems she encountered because of her main character’s unusual name. Here’s the relevant extract:

    “I did have some issues with contest judges going all WTF? when reading FIND ME. I think one judge even said ‘No one names heroines Wicket.’ Technically, someone does.”

    Anyway, I think my conclusion is that names have power, but what sort of power ultimately the writer decides. I wouldn’t expect a tattooed biker to be named Jonathon Hamilton, but in the hands of a skilled writer they could make it work, I have no doubt.

  7. What a fun topic! I’ve never thought about it actually. There are some names I absolutely adore, but that is also because I really like the character. So I guess that I’m a bit influenced by it in a certain way.. It’s not that I won’t read a book just because I hate the name, but they can give me certain feelings. Sometimes, there are just hilarious names and I can’t take them seriously. I mean, what is that book where the male is called ‘Butterfly’?

  8. I don’t really put much emphasis on names when I read. I mean, sometimes I’ll come across this name that’s really weird (like Katniss) and be like ‘what?’ but that’s as far as my acknowledgement of names go. I definitely won’t like a character less because they have a weird name. I would hate to be judged on my name in real life and I’m sure if the characters were real, they would feel the same way!

  9. Usually I don’t nitpick over a character’s name, since ultimately it’s their personality that counts. But there was one exception recently (remember Forged by Greed??) that I just could NOT handle. Who the heck names their characters Jatred and Jasmira? 1) Don’t have the main characters share the same first letter. 2) Don’t rhyme a name with Hatred. 3) Just call her Jasmine would you?? It still fries me. I hated their personalities too – it was like a double whammy. Bad bad BAD.

    Most of the time I try to keep an open mind though. I mean, I just fell in love with an angel named Raffe. I don’t even know how to pronounce it but I’m ready to sign the marriage license already.

  10. Character names don’t affect me usually, I don’t think, unless they stick out. And if they do stick out, it’s usually for the worst, like, “Ugh, I can’t believe the author used that name.” One example that sticks out to me is America in The Selection. The name use felt so contrite. But at the same time, I know how perfect I feel my character’s names are when I write their stories, and as a reader we can’t always understand just how perfect it probably is to the writer, and they know the character best. So I try not to let it affect me, but sometimes it does me a positive or negative first impression before I get to know the character.

  11. Becca, I have definitely read some books where the name gives away a plot twist. Often times though, I find it isn’t usually a huge deal because the author expects this to happen and reveals the “spoiler” pretty easily. The Selection by Kiera Cass has a character name that is very representative of the character. America Singer – a revolutionary girl who, get this, sings. When the connection is that obvious, I really don’t like it.

    I don’t think names really affect my opinion of them. With that said though, I agree with Hazel when she says that names can really give us impressions of who they are/ what they represent. They have significance, but don’t ultimately sway how I think of them.

  12. Character names totally affect my judgement of the characters, I hate that about myself but it’s true. If I am already iffy about a character, their complicated name will just push me over the edge. Also, complicated names are so tough to remember for reviews. I hate having to go back and double checked that I wrote the name correctly, it gets annoying and irksome! Great post and awesome panel! It was interesting to see what all the bloggers thought. 🙂

  13. This is a really interesting question! Like most of, I don’t think it really affects me either. I like unique names and I love names that turn out to have a deeper meaning, but if it’s a normal name I don’t care. Or if it’s a complicated name I’ll just skip over it or simplify it in my head.

  14. Damn. I almost typed my comment in the form. Hahaha. This is certainly a fun question. Thanks for raising it, Meg. To some extent, character names affect the way I look at them especially if I’m just starting to know them. But once they’ve grown on me, I simply do not care. Take for example Harry Potter. The name Harry is okay but Potter sounds like something out of a joke. I love Harry but I never thought of having him as my husband because of “Potter.” He’s the vanquisher of the Dark Lord and Potter doesn’t sound cool for someone who achieved a great feat like that. But because he’s one of the coolest characters, I tend not to notice that he has a funny surname. It’s the same with Ronald Weasley. When I first met him, I thought I should be wary of him. Weasley sounds dodgy. But right now, I don’t care anymore. I want him to be my bestfriend and personal entertainer.

    And have you heard of Fae by C.J. Abedi? The male lead (a faerie) was named Devilyn. While reading the whole book, I can’t concentrate because every time I read his name, I am disturbed. I mean why would people name their characters as lame as Devilyn? Did they run out of names? And I swear his name was one of the reasons why I gave the book a 2.5 star rating.

    So my answer to your question based on what I’ve explained above is that, It depends.

  15. I don’t find that names of characters bias my opinion of them. Sure, with certain names, I get excited because I just love how it sounds or the meanings behind it. I always wonder why authors used certain names. I find the backstories fascinating. I don’t have any ill feelings towards any names (though sometimes it makes me think of former classmates from high school so that’s kind of weird. Lol).

    If I wrote a story, then that’s an entire different story. I am extremely bias for the names I use. (They’re my precious bbs! ;D)

  16. Let’s just say it takes me pages to get to remember all the names and they are actually the fist thing I forget (except those characters that I loved) so quite honestly I couldn’t care less about the names. So they for sure don’t influence my opinion about the characters. But also some unusual names make me try to pronounce it few times (it’s never correct though) 😀 I’m glad you girls aren’t falling for boys just because their name is Sexy or Hot 😉 Great panel Meg 🙂

  17. I absolutely agreed with Nara and Becca! They hit on some really great points.

    I hate it when like everyone has such a generic name in a book, or when everyone has this weird name, especially in contemporary novels. It’s like authors have this certain list they go through for names, because I know the names in my classroom are quite varied. But in books, names get repeated a lot. And when they’re too generic, I end up getting confused by the character.

    And I can’t really think of a book where a character’s name was such a spoiler to the plot, but it would get me really annoyed if that happened.

  18. Names usually don’t matter to me, but sometimes, I do get irritated if the character has a super weird name that’s hard to pronounce. Or if thety have one of those names that 3 out of 5 boys/girls have. I’m usually more content with a name that hasn’t been used and abused over and over again but I also don’t want to have to Google it to see how it’s pronounced. Most of the time I manage to ignore stuff like that, but sometimes I slip. I try to keep an open mind, but sometimes authors come up with ridiculous “words” that they want to pass off as names.

    I also try to avoid at all costs reading a book where the main character has my name – when I hate/dislike a character, I end up disliking everything about them, so if they have my name… it just doesn’t work for me. I’ll keep thinking, “Well, that’s not what I’d do!” and it would prevent me from enjoying the book. It probably makes me sound shallow, but everyone has their bookish pet-peeves ;D

    Also (as Becca points out) character names/last names can give away a lot of the plot and it’s just annoying. The “big reveals” are ruined and there’s no surprise.

  19. Interesting topic!
    A few weeks ago I would of said I could look past character names but then I came across a book.
    I realised a few pages in not only did the lead characters share my uncle and best friend’s names they also shared their ages…..- as it was New Adult needless to say I found it increasing hard to look past the names so I had to give up!
    I think the fact I’m not a fact of huge age gaps didn’t help the matter nor that it’s main genre was romance. Normally I can look past it if it’s a common name like Becky or Anna and like with that book I will try to look past names.

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  21. Well, actually I think character names do affect me, a little. When a character has my name that’s always a little… creepy. Haha, or I’m just weird. Also, there are some seriously odd character names out there. Especially in fantasy. When I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce someone’s name that bothers me. Thank God for audiobooks! 🙂 But I don’t want to see Bobs in high fantasy either. Not that I read much (high) fantasy, but you know what I mean 🙂 Apple? Lol. Weird names are just weird. But at first I thought that Penryn was a weird name,too, and now I really like it. It really all depends on the characterization. I also don’t like “tell-tale” names. Like if someone is named Raffe/Rafa something in a paranormal book, you can bet on he’d turn out to be an angel. I do like the name Raffe, though. And I quite like swoony guys with swoony names like Etienne St. Clair 🙂 Great panel!

  22. I think names can be important. They’re often hints about the character. Sometimes it’s a fine balance between making the name appropriate and not giving away any secrets… or hitting the reader over the head with an obvious fact. A beautiful girl named “Bella”? Please.

    Some names just turn me right off. “Renesmee” is just stupid. “Po” has been overused (and I’m not sure why; it’s not exactly an attractive name). I also dislike it when characters have names that aren’t actual names, like “Ever” and “Haven” (both of those are from the same book).

    And let’s just leave out all the names from The Hunger Games, or we’ll be here all day. 😀

  23. Honestly, I often don’t even remember character names. Especially in books from a first person perspective, the main character’s name doesn’t come up that often. I might occasionally notice that I dislike or like a secondary character’s name, but it definitely doesn’t matter to me enough to affect my opinion of the character.

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