I know I shouldn't talk -- Ivony Shyer, ahem -- but while perusing a list of recently-published novels, I was amused by many of the main characters' names.
Examples Of "Fun" and "Unusual" Character Names (from a list on Amazon.com):
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Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed (The Hawkweed Prophecy, Brignull)
Petunia Beanly (Paris For Two, Stone)
Jack "The Jackdaw" Dawson (My Brilliant Idea (And How It Caused My Downfall), David)
Brock Ripley (Gutless, Deuker)
Mercer Buddie (Flip The Bird, Brunner)
Milo Noirlac (Black Dance, Huston)
Izzy Edel (The Sea Beach Line: A Novel, Nadler)
Moses Teumer (Broken Sleep, Bauman)
Catarina Pensbene (Catarina's Ring: A Novel, McGuiness)
Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr (Moonlight Over Paris: A Novel, Robson)
Matthew Grzbc (Contrary Motion: A Novel, Mozina)
Dolly Lane (A Girl From The Savoy: A Novel, Gaynor)
Ursula Hildesheim (My Own Dear Brother, Müller)
Sharon Kisses (The Animators: A Novel, Whitaker)
Cedar McLeod (Into The Fire (The Thin Veil), McIsaac)
Hubie Schuze (The Pot Thief Who Studied Georgia O'Keeffe, Orenduff)
Bocephus Haynes (Between Black and White, Bailey)
Cade Larrabee (Larrabee's Luck, Choate)
Hunter Talbot Grant III (Scandalize Me (Fifth Avenue), Crews)
Kamryn Cunningham (Sharing You: A Novel, McAdams)
Penny Plage (Forget Love: A Novel, Tom/Northrop)
Adelia Montfort (The Last Summer At Chelsea Beach, Jenoff)
Natalia De la Grip (All In (High Stakes), Ahrnstedt)
Eyelet Elsworth and Urlick Babbit (Noir (The Illumination Paradox), Garlick)
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Why Do Writers Do This?
- We want our characters (and therefore our stories) to be memorable. An unusual moniker should do the trick, right?
- Giving characters everyday names like Jennifer or John is fine, but writers (and readers) probably know someone by those names in real life. Writers don't want their friends and family to think the story is about them. Readers want to be able to escape. Neither necessarily wants to have an all-too-familiar name tainting or haunting the story.
- The same brain muscles that allow writers to produce creative stories also prompt them to produce creative names. Sometimes they even come up with a character's name first and then write the story.
- Odd names worked for Mark Twain ("Huckleberry Finn") and other classic writers.
- No matter how wacky a character's name is, if the writer has been using it (writing with it) for a set amount of time, they may become attached to that name and be unwilling to change it. The name may have become an integral part of that character's essence and personality.
- Writers may struggle with coming up with a "perfect" name that doesn't date the character or the story (or maybe dates it slightly, but in a positive way.) If they're writing a story set in 1901, names like Henry, Sophie, Eva, and William are all great; they're period-appropriate and are still well-liked today. Herbert, Lester, Mildred, and Blanche, while still just as popular in 1901, don't hold up as well nowadays. Likewise, if they're writing a story set in 2016, giving characters names like Madison, Brayden, Jaxon, Kaylee and Harper may be fine now, but 50 years from now? Those people will be grandparent-aged ("Grandma Kaylee"?), and the book may seem dated. It's a tough line to walk. In the end, we often just say "screw it" and name our character Brittania Snowybear Jamison XI.