Names in fiction

There was an article on NPR recently that cited a study showing that scientists with anglo names are more likely to be cited in news stories. My sense is that I tend to go with Slavic or Italian names for most of my characters, but I decided to dig a bit deeper and see what the case was with my published fiction, finding all the named characters

  • “Artifacts.” No named characters.
  • “Bartholomew L. Bartholomew.” Bartholomew L. Bartholomew, Frank “2” Lewis, Jerry (no last name), Chris (no last name), Sanjoy Patel, Judy (no last name), Mr Carsten (no first name), Dave (no last name), Alexander Nilov, Debra Potrelli.
  • “Concerning His Computer.” No named characters.
  • “Girls.” No named characters
  • “In Extremis.” Antonín Pavlik, Tereza Pavlik, Baron von Tábor (named extratextually)
  • “Le Pont des Arts.” Thierry, Simone (no last names).
  • “MeTube.” Julie, Kelly, Lynne, Rachel, Michael (no last names)
  • “The Namesake.” No named characters.
  • “Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behaviors.” Jami (no last name).
  • “Our Lady of the Freeway.” Henry Allen, Arthur Southwell, Amanda (no last name)
  • “An Outsider.” Julie Miller, Frank O’Brien, Rob Vitek, Jimmy Chesnik, Brian (Havlicek in earlier drafts), narrator (Dennis Ruzin in earlier drafts).
  • “Persistence of Memory.” No named characters.
  • “A Pilgrimage.” Leo, Cynthia (no last names).
  • “Place de Stalingrad.” Robert, Jack, Eliot (no last names), Professor Maurin, 
  • “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood.” “Saint Anthony,” Father Connelly, 
  • “Saint Jude’s Medallion.” Lucie, Ramón, Rita, Alejandro (no last names), Father Green.
  • “Sunglasses with mirrors on the inside.” No named characters.
  • “Thy Neighbour’s Goods.” No named characters.
  • “The Universe is Broken.” Wolf Blitzer.

Some surprises to me included the fact that over a third of my stories have no named characters at all. Most of those that do have no last names. I’ve only re-used a first name twice: Frank and Julie. Out of the remaining names, I had 38% Anglo-Saxon, 38% Slavic, 9.5% Irish and 5% each of Italian, French and Indian. I suppose that my unpublished fiction might skew these numbers a bit more towards my preconception.






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