I start this post with a disclaimer... this list is up for discussion. These are arguably, and I stress the word arguably, the top 10 character names in fiction. In fact, when I discussed this list with my husband he thought there was more than one name that should be removed from the list. I kept them on anyway. It is, after all, my list. And really what I want to start is a discussion.
Why? As an author naming your characters is vitally important. Sometimes, in my world, the characters name themselves. In this sort of organic way, there is only one name that fits them and they bestow their own name upon me. For example, Ryan McGuire from my novel, This Moment. His name never changed from the time I started putting words on paper until the time the book was ready to publish. In other cases I must write for a while, take time to get to know my characters and use placeholders until their real name comes to me. I wonder, how do other writers work?
The following authors mastered the art of character naming. Without further ado, here is my list.
- Katie Scarlett O'Hara from Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. -- A fierce heroine whose name is equal amounts of flirty and strong.
- Rhett Butler also from Gone With the Wind -- A handsome rogue with a bent for loyalty, and a name that fits the bill.
- Kunta Kinte from Alex Haley's Roots: The Saga of an American Family -- A strong man, captured and sold as a slave, refuses the name Toby and never forgets who he is or where he came from, Kunta Kinte stays in our souls forever.
- Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights -- part hopeless romantic, part homeless child, part evil villain, the man with one name, Heathcliff, remains an iconic character.
- Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye -- A confused boy with teenage angst, fear of the adult world, and crazed by the phonies, this young man wants nothing more than to hold on to his youth. Is there a more fitting name? I don't think so.
- Oliver Barrett IV from Erich Segal's Love Story -- Old money runs through the veins of his blue-blooded body and his name is more like a label he can't cut off. Simply brilliant.
- Atticus Finch from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird --The name Atticus is synonymous with what is right and just. Strong, fair, even, and unwavering in his stand against prejudice, Atticus also never fails to surprise. A great name for a great character.
- Hester Prynne from Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter -- A female protagonist who embraces her sexuality and ultimately suffers its consequences. Whether she agrees with the consequences or not, she accepts them. Prim versus Prynne... a masterpiece.
- Madame Defarge from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities -- A villain who seeks revenge throughout the entire novel, with her quest becoming her own downfall -- with a name synonymous with an unrelenting ability not to forgive...and knitting too.
- Huckleberry Finn from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn -- Huck remains the quintessential innocent, as in you are such a huckleberry -- an ignorant country bumpkin -- and yet in reality, Huck was a boy with unwavering principles that belied his perfectly given name.