Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Writing Wednesday: What's in a Name?
At a library discussion over the summer, one of the patrons raised a hand to ask,
"How do you name your characters?"
Good question. And the answer seems to be different for every writer.
For me it depends on the story. Sometimes names and characters arrive in my head fully formed. Especially main characters. But secondary characters are trickier for me, and I'll admit that I often use names of real people for those one-off mentions or one-scene characters.
For example, the liquor distributor in My Kind of Crazy? Was named after a kid on my son's soccer team, after a drive home from a game where my son complained non-stop (Non. Stop.) about the other kid's hesitation on the field and how it cost them the game. Sitting at my computer that night, it was obviously the first name that popped into my head. I'm not sure I realized what I actually did until a few days later when I was editing...
Other times it's conscious. I needed two female first names for friends who are mentioned once in my current WIP - I used names of kids who were at my house for a pool party that day. Quick, easy. First names only.
But sometimes I spend inordinate amounts of time on Google searching baby names and their meaning... or registries of ethnic last names, if I'm looking for something specific.
I've also come to realize that a lot of writers tend to have their hero and heroine names "match" somehow - starting with the same letter, rhyming in some way... and I'm guilty too, especially in first drafts. But even worse is the proliferation of "unique" names, especially in New Adult books - names that are spelled in some crazy way and maybe pronounced like a regular name. Or not. Or sound more like cartoon names (or stripper names) than anyone in real life would. Fine for fantasy. Not so much when your attorney heroine is named Krystalle - really?
Recently I had to come up with a hero name for a book I'm going to write as part of a group series - and it's hard to come up with a first name without a story. Now it feels like I'm building the story around the name. Maybe that's a thing, though. Have you ever tried that?
What do you do when you need a background character name? Do you ever pluck from real life, or flip through a phone book?
How do you chose your hero/heroine names? Do they arrive in your head or do you search baby name books?
Where do you get inspiration for character names? Let's get a discussion going, and maybe inspire each other with new ways to name those voices in our heads...
Happy Writing to ALL!