April 23, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know - Naming Characters

I am a panster, and this carries over to my characters' names. In one book, I asked my daughter for the names, Conner and Layla.  Honestly, I don't recall how I came up with the names of my other characters. There's one of my WIPs where the heroine's name keeps getting changed. I know that I want her to have a boyish name, like Dannie or Sammie, while her real name is more elegant, like Danielle or Samantha. Or something even less flattering, a name one of her brothers came up with, perhaps because he couldn't pronounce her name.  The hero won't realize her name is not actually what he's been calling her all along. I just can't settle on a name for her.

For secondary characters, I usually just look around my house for items with names on them (books) and use that.  I have learned to be careful what you name secondary characters, however...you may want to write a book about them and not be thrilled with their name!

How do you name your characters, especially the main characters?  Do you just pick out a name or do you worrying over it?


Celia Yeary said...

AK--I like this question. Naming a character can almost become a science as we search and ponder and choose. Take real people...some people "look" like their name...others do not. I know a woman named Donna and she is not a "Donna." So, inadvertently, I call her Carol. She is a "Carol."
I name characters easily and quickly. Rarely do I need to search for a perfect name.
For my Texas book, the Cameron Family is the source, and I actually have a genealogical chart drawn up for all the characters and offspring and marriages, etc. My curren WIP-Texas Dreamer is about Lee King. But his name has always been Lee since the first book in which her was four years old.How did I come up with "Lee" for a four year old boy who appears once in a novel? I pictured a nephew names Lee, and sae a dark-haired, wild, exurberant child--my nephew Lee.

Names come easily, as soon as I see the character, I get the name.

If this doesn't happen, then I use the phone book and search, or I use on-line lists of names--especially is the character is another ethnicity.

It's interesting. Names should also fit the time period, so I really hate to see a Nineteenth Century young lady named "Tammy."
(an example.)

J.D. Faver said...

Hi Anna Kathryn.
I agree that names are important. I used to have a multi-page file just filled with all kinds of first names and last names filed in alphabetical order. I have no idea where that little gem is today.
Now, I let the characters tell me their names. I'll give them a generic name until they own up to their real one.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Celia and J. D. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your 'naming the character' stories. Speaking of naming people for those you know, there are a few names I can't use because they are relatives' names. Drives me crazy, because it's common names, like Robert and Daniel...great hero names!

Paty Jager said...

Interesting. I plan out the names of my characters almost as much as I do the plot. I'm not a plotter but I "stew and brew" the book and characters around in my head a while before I start putting anything down, including a character sketch. Names for my main characters usually either come to me as the character takes shape in my head or I want a specific ethnic name and I look through name lists until I hit upon one that fits my character. Secondary character names come to me as they appear in the stories.

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi AK, I often use names of real people LOL. But I try for authenticity...in my historicals a name like Addison would never work. Same as I'd never name a contemporary heroine Hilda. It doesn't sound up to the minute.

Same with men's names. There are simply cowboy names, like Cole. But sometimes historicals use cowboy names that IMO are too modern sounding,

Very fine post today.

Robena Grant said...

I love this post. Thanks. I get tired of the overly contrived names and end up rolling my eyes as I read. Gvie me an old-fashioned Bob or Mick or Suzanne and I'm good to go. Does that tell my age? Ha ha.
And what a gorgeous photo on the blog! I want to go there.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

When I write historicals I look up names ithat were popular in spacific years. For paranormals I like to use my own made up names that just suite my idea of what that character is like. For one of series, I named all the girls after flowers and the boys after birds of prey. Contemporaries are a bit easier. I name villains names that I find repugnant or (this is vengeful)kids I didn't like in school way back when. LOL I try to match names to primary characters that suite the character's personality--and sometimes that process takes a while.
A very interesting blog, Celia.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I use family names or Biblical names. If the character is another ethnicity, I sometimes try the online lists. As Celia said, names must fit the time period, which is why I use family names for my historical novels. I just look back at that time period and choose an unusual name like Parmelia, for instance, or one that is in all generations, like Elizabeth.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I was at the zoo today with the grandchild and a friend and her 5 kids. And half the school districts in the area! We had a good time, though, plus I learned that armadillos are related to sloths and ant eaters...who knew? I should say that while I thin ethical names are good, I hate names I can't pronounce. I love Kathleen Woodiwiss, but I never could pronounce her heroine's names.

Erin Hatton said...

I like to use baby name websites. I tend to pick names with applicable meanings, so sometimes I google search for a name with the meaning I want. Or if I'm looking for a name from a specific culture, I'll look up the most popular names from that country. I take way too long to pick names, so sometimes a character will just be [] in the story until I come up with the right handle. :) Good luck!