Friday, April 16, 2010

What's In A Name?

If you're a writer, and you haven't yet experienced the ABC hit Castle, I urge you to get online and view the past episodes.

This is Wikipedia's synopsis of the series:
Castle follows Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, a famous mystery novelist who has killed off his main character in his book series and has writer's block. Castle is called in to help the NYPD solve a copy-cat murder based on one of his novels. Stana Katic stars opposite as the young determined detective Kate Beckett. Castle, who becomes interested in Beckett as a potential character for a new book series, uses his contacts and receives permission to continue accompany Beckett while investigating cases. Castle decides to use Beckett as the model for the main character of his next book series, starring "Nikki Heat". Beckett, an avid reader of Castle's books, is initially disapproving of having Castle shadow her on her cases, but later warms up and recognizes Castle as a useful resource in solving crimes. While technically a drama series, Castle also features comedy and romantic tension.

Yes. It's a show about a writer written by, well, writers. Every week they sneak in tidbits that writers can relate to, such as this gem from an episode titled "The Double Down":
Beckett: [reads what is written on a therapist's dead body] "Your out of time"?
Lanie Parish (coroner): Looks like a patient lost their patience.
Castle: Also his command of grammar. "Your" should be You-apostrophe-R-E as in "you are." That's not even a tough one, not like when to use "who" or "whom."
Beckett: You really think that's the take-away here, Castle?
Castle: I'm just saying - whoever killed her also murdered the English language.

In this week's episode, "The Late Shaft", Beckett wants to bring in a man for questioning. When she tells Castle his name, Zach Robinson, Castle says, "Good villain name! Sneaky Z, hard k-sound." This dialogue goes by so fast, my husband missed it. When I laughed, he made me rewind the DVR so he could catch it. I'm tuned in to these little writeresque moments. My electronics technician hubby is not.

This got me thinking about names. I've heard that my character's name should reflect The above exchange is a perfect example. Keeping with the villain theme, I started wondering about famous villains in movies. How many of them had audibly harsh names? No offense to the Zachs of this world, or any of the names represented in the following list of villains:
  • Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) - The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
  • Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
  • Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) - The Godfarther Part II (1974)
  • Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) - Misery (1990)
  • Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) - Cape Fear (1962)
  • Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) - A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) - Wall Street (1987) (Kathy's note: The beloved icon Geico Gekko had not yet been created.)
  • Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) - Dracula (1931)
  • Graf Orlok (Max Schreck) - Nosferatu (1922) (Kathy's note: Never saw it, but isn't that a great villain name?)
  • Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) - Mommie Dearest (1981) (Kathy's note: Sorry. Couldn't resist. :-> )
  • Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) - Die Hard (1988)
  • Regina Giddens (Bette Davis) - The Little Foxes (1941)
  • Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) - Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) - Fargo (1996)
  • Gollum (Andy Serkis) - Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)
  • Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) - The Adventures of Robin Hood - (1938)
  • General Zod (Terrance Stamp) - Superman II (1980)
  • Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) - American Beauty (1999)
  • Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) - Robocop (1987)
  • Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) - A View To A Kill (1985)
Note the hard sounds of G and K. The disquieting pairings of "ctr" as in Lecter, "tch" as in Ratched, and "tz" as in Kurtz. And the ugly way your mouth twists when you say, Graf Orlok, Gaear Grimsrud, Frank Fitts . . . Joan Crawford. :->

This little lesson is making me rethink my own name. Kathy Kovach. All those hard Ks. What must people think of me?


Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Ooooh! Castle! I LOVE that show. Hubby and me both love it. Watch it every Monday night, and when we miss it, we catch it on Hulu the next day. :)

As for villain names, that's an interesting thought. I don't know that I ever considered that when writing villains in my books. My first villain was Preston Sanbourne. No hard letters there. Just the snaky-S. :) Hmm, not sure if that's smooth or snarky.

I'll be thinking about this from now on, that's for sure.

Craft Cinema said...

I think the snaky S works very well for your villain!

I don't often have villains in my stories. It's usually man vs himself. But in Merely Players the antagonist was Chad Cheswick. Everyone called him Chez. I thought the two "ch" sounds and the hard "k" worked well. In Cookie Schemes it was the hero's cousin Corky. Again, the hard sounds made sense, but I got the name from a high school annual I found online from 1955. I needed a name that also suggested illegal drag races and cigs rolled up in t-shirt sleeves. lol

Chris Richards said...

So, Kathy, does that mean I should consider any character with those hard sounds in their names as potential villains? Or should I give my villains names with soft sounds so they can sneak up on the reader with the surprise factor? Oh, dear, something else to worry about in my edits.

Kathy Kovach... said...

LOL Chris! It's a never-ending battle, isn't it? I sometimes like to give my characters opposite names, like Prudie in Cookie Schemes. She was a headstrong woman ready to take the business world 1955 by storm. I thought the prissie name sooo didn't fit her, which became an underlying joke. You also don't want to give your villain away too soon. So, if you have someone named Gerhardt Grog, and we're not supposed to know he's the bad guy, you might want to go easier on the name. :)