Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's In A Name?

If you're anything like me, naming your characters is like naming one of your own children. So any old name simply will not do...

Before I can even start a new manuscript, I have to have my main characters named along with the bulk of my central characters. Of course there are always those characters that pop up throughout the story, but for the most part my names are set in stone.

How do I know the name I select will fit? It's hard to explain, it's just a gut feeling I get. I write up extensive character pages during the pre-stages of a ms and refer to these when selecting my names.

Where do I find these names? To begin with, I have a list of names that I've compiled from my day to day interactions with television, books and other people. when I see one I like, I add it to the list for future use. If I can't find a name from the list, then I refer to one of the many websites dedicated to names. It's actually pretty fun because unlike when I named my kiddos, I don't have to have anyone else's input!

Here are a couple of site's that have been helpful to me:
Name Berry
Namelists

Now these are just a couple I have used. I don't have to tell you that there are tons of lists out there for you to access. But whatever resource I use, the names simply have to be perfect before I can begin getting acquainted with my new characters.

So what about you? What methods so you use to match up new characters with the perfect name?

16 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

I like to look up the meaning of names and try and choose one which fit my charac's personality. :o)

Laura Pauling said...

Usually the name comes to me. I don't look to sites unless I need a very specific name, like someone from a different culture. I try and find the name that suits my character's personality. It's fun.

Jules Ausborn said...

My names actually come to me first. When they arrive I know they soon want to be written so we slowly talk things out. There names don't always remain, in fact in one of my novels the MC's name actually became the antagonist instead, which was actually an ah-ha moment. Oh how I love those!

Jen/Jules

Jess said...

I tend to shy away from complicated names, but sometimes I like to have a combination of interesting and average (examples- Caladria Davis, Charlie Rumpleroot). Thanks for the links!

aspiring_x said...

names are such a blast to chose!
sometimes i pull names from life. like in one WIP the mc is named after a friend. in another one of the supporting characters is named after a friend who died. in one WIP the mc's parents have my in-laws' names and the love interest's parents have my parents' names. :)

Quinn said...

I'm just like you. I can't start writing until I've named my characters (no place-holders for me) and I take a lot of care in selecting names. I'm really wanting to start working on my next project, but can't because I don't know my MCs name. I just can't get one that fits.

For my main characters, I generally go with a nice normal name. Normal, but unique also. I mean, the MCs name can't be strange, the reader needs to be able to connect. With secondary characters, I go a little wierder; well, not wierd, but more unusual. For bit characters, they get named after TV characters I like.

When I'm coming up with names, I generally pour over baby name websites until I find one that clicks. Some names I've made up. I had to name my villain in my first book. She was a Sudanese refugee who could control shadows. I looked up Sudanese names and found Nnekaya (I liked the double n). That didn't sound dark enough to me though, so I changed the y to r ... Nnekara. That fit. Another character I gave a name that I had completely made up (My students had to write their own fairy tale as an assignment and I did one myself -- I took the name from that). Later I found out that the name I came up with was a real Russian name, I had just spelled it differently.

In the end though, names are important and writers need to spend time on them.

Matthew Rush said...

My own philosophy is that the character makes the name, rather than the name making the character. Then again that could just be because I'm not that great at coming up with interesting names.

Colene Murphy said...

Thanks for the links! Will definitely check them out.

I usually start off with a name for the MC but it will change as I write. Sometimes a few times before I feel like it's the perfect name.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I usually have an idea of a name, but I tend to think about my MC more than my minor ones. But I did go on a name meanings name for my new MS. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Sometimes I'll start writing without a name an simply use brackets in their place, if I've got an idea bouncing around that just has to be written.

Jessica Hill said...

I very picking about my character's names as well. Like you, I get a gut feeling when I know I've stumbled across the right name.

I do a lot of researching to choose names. After figuring out the origin of the character, I look up names from that origin. I also look up meanings to try to find one that suits the character's personality.

It's a lot of work just to choose names! But, like you said, just any old name simply won't do. ;)

Lisa said...

When I base a character on a real person, I try to look for names that are similar to theirs (without giving my secret away). I like The Baby Name Wizard for this because you can search for names that are similar to the one you like (or for sibling names too, if you need them). I also use the Social Security Baby Name Index a lot. I determine the year my character was born and then look up popular names in that year. I usually scan the list until something catches my eye. If I'm looking an an usual name, I start at the bottom of the list.

I'm going to check out the two you mentioned though, too. Naming characters is one of my favorite parts (maybe that's why I always have a boatload of them!).

Of course, I've been know to character names halfway through a manuscript (the "Find" function is good for this).

Jemi Fraser said...

I can't write a thing without names for my main characters. They need to be 'real' & without those names, it's not possible.

erica and christy said...

I love names. And coming up with them for my kids and for my characters. My husband and I had our kids' names picked out before we were even married, so, yeah, it's the first thing I do before starting a novel. For the main characters anyways. Sometimes a new character will pop up while I'm in the middle of writing and usually my fingers type their names before it's even sunk in they're entering the story! Thanks for the links! christy

Shannon said...

I *love* naming characters. Probably one of my favorite parts of writing. It's a mixed bag for me - for the most part, they just come to me but for the few that don't, I pour over baby name websites and research meanings until something clicks.

Rachele Alpine said...

I'm a teacher too (yay!), and I have to admit that if a character shares similar personalities of past students, I'll sometimes use that name because I can picture them. More often than not, though, the name will just come to me. Sometimes it won't come for awhile, though. I've written probably half a book without a name sometimes because I can't find the perfect one.