Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Name Fame (1) The Hunger Games

Friday’s Name Fame

This is not a meme, I repeat, this is not a meme!

I recently wrote a Guest Post for my friend, Enna Isilee’s, blog Squeaky Books. I got great response and if that is how you found my blog, welcome, welcome!

Since names are such a big part of my blog and one of my many hobby’s (read: obsessions) I figured I should really blog about it!

I’m going to take well-received books and/or book series and write the nitty-gritty on how the names chosen either positively, or negatively affected that book or series. I am choosing well known books in the hopes my Page Turners have read them. If not, I would suggest skipping these occasional posts, yes, there will be spoilers.

I think this should be good fun and I hope I get your opinions as well!

Today The Hunger Games will kick off Name Fame Fridays. This will be a one Friday a month affair. Probably the third Friday of every month, because three is my lucky number!

I have a theory that a good book is comprised of good names.

You may disagree, but I have seen this theory prove more true than false in my reading; granted, we may not be reading the same books.

That’s what I’m here to talk about, the names in books, very critical in a great story, but sadly overlooked in the light of truly gorgeous covers and very handsome male counter-parts.

Think of your favorite book, the one that tops all the others, or at least the first of your favorites to pop into your mind. Can you remember the characters, not just for their enviable talents, or their many adventuresome ventures, but their names? Of course you can, because they made an impact; they were part of the character, and they mattered.

Now, consider the last book you read that you either didn’t finish or you trudged your way through. What did you think of those names? Can you think of the names? If you can, I bet you detest them, possibly thinking they did nothing to add to the characters’ nature. Or perhaps, you can’t remember them at all.

Time and again authors prove my theory – books with amazing characters, enchanting plot twists and an ending that leaves you satisfied and hopeful have chosen great names for their cast. Books that fall flat have lackluster character names, forgettable from start to finish. Oh wait, I probably couldn’t bring myself to finish!

I do not believe that authors stumble upon these finely honed appellations; no, I believe they go in search of their characters’ names, as a parent does their child’s. Those “other” characters – the ones we forget – I don’t think their authors ever believed in them, not the way they should, and that is reflected in their writing. Just because a name exists, doesn’t make it the right name for a character. Availability doesn’t mean a match.

The Hunger Games: More Genius than you knewTumblr_latji8dook1qc3cj5o1_500_large

Authors, who care, name their characters well, often with more genius than you knew. Take for instance, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. Collins uses her names to describe not only her characters but also the districts from which they originate.

Collins chose ancient Roman names for her Capitol citizens. Why does this choice merit such brilliance? Collins based her books on the myth of the Centaur and the Virgin Sacrifice. The myth is Roman, and just like The Capitol, Rome fell. Names like Aurelius, Cinna, Octavia and Flavius all make an appearance in the fashionable, power-hungry Capitol.

Katniss became 'Katniss: Girl on Fire' after Cinna designed her ceremony outfit to display District Devotion. This is a common practice in Panem, everything goes back to your district, in case the odds fall against you and you become a Tribute. Even the names parents select for their children reflect the industry of their Disctrict. For instance, Glitter and Cashmere could only hail from District One, the purveyors of high quality items while Wiress and Beetee are harsher names, a little odd until you realize District Three is known for their factories, electronics and explosives. I always thought of a sound a machine might make when I read Beetee’s name.

District Four is known for fishing and their Tributes are Finnick and Mags. Finnick could be shortened to Finn, like a fish, while Mags comes from the name Margaret, meaning Pearl. District Eleven is known for its agriculture and orchards; Rue and Thresh are their tributes. The Rue flower is known to symbolize young death, while threshing is a violent process that separates wheat from chaff – a perfect choice for a Tribute who is expected to pulverize others or be crushed in the arena.

As for the heroes, Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Primrose, their names are richer, more layered in meaning. These are the only characters which have names beyond their District’s industry - coal mining. Collins gives us more with these characters, because they have hopeful names – names that have the possibility of breaking the mold, altering the reality of Panem, as only true heroes can.

Peeta comes from Peter, which means rock, perfect for Katniss’s love interest, he is something to hold onto when everything else is sinking. The other main male protagonist, Gale, means storm, which is perfect; we know Gale is a brewing storm. Katniss and Primrose are both nature names, one a root, one a beautiful flower. How perfect for Primrose and Katniss, both as sisters and as characters!

Collins also withheld many of her names. So many of the Tributes who died before anyone could get to know them remained unnamed, that really makes a statement of expandability. But, Collins also withheld the names of members of Katniss’s family; Katniss' father was never named and neither were her children. Think what you will of that, but it mostly broke my heart.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on The Hunger Games click the link and read my review.

I also want to include my Hunger Games cast, I cannot cast Katniss, because I feel such a deep kinship with her, for reasons I really can’t explain over Blog, that I see her as me. Maybe I’ll include a picture of me and see if you think I could cut it.

Let me know in the comments which other books or series you would like me to ramble on about!

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