Character Names and Homage

Writers put a great deal of effort and thought - both conscious and subconscious - into the naming of their characters. A character's name is literally the shorthand readers use to refer to that person. If you name someone "Dirk" or "Rose" very different mental images immediately spring up. If you name a character "Judas", very explicit impressions are made of that person before they even open their mouth.

Those built in impressions of people come from the world they live in. If you look at the most popular baby names in a given year since TV came into being, often they are directly tied to popular actresses and actors of the time. People see a woman who is beautiful and lively, and they name their baby after her, wanting the baby to take on those same qualities.

Look at the Scarlet Letter, by Hawthorne. The child born to Hester in the book is called "Pearl" - and the name is very powerful. This is the "pearl of great price" and conjures up many images of being a precious gem, a sole, solitary treasure. Hawthorne was also known to use "Faith" as an indicator name.

Because of these powerful connections, if there’s a fairly unique name in a story that brings to mind another character, that can be a form of homage. If you have a modern-day romance and a wise boss comes into the scene named “Galadriel” it’s likely that the name will trigger a wealth of traits in the minds of those who know the Lord of the Rings saga. You don’t even have to describe Galadriel or her personality before assumptions are being made.

Be cautious that you stay on the side of homage, though. If you have a wizarding story and there’s a Professor Snape who looks, acts, and speaks exactly like Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series, that crosses into the realm of plagiarism.

The idea is to tip your hat to the author who came before – not to wholeheartedly steal their creation.

Plagiarism Parody and Homage main page


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