Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What's your method? Chosing Character Names...

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Yesterday's discussion was great fun! Thanks for your comments. My new friend Lisa from over at Slushbusters shared her great idea of jotting down names from movie credits and keeping them in a list for future character use. Fantastic idea!
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That comment, coupled with my pal Amy's cool contest to name a character in her book (slated for Winter 2010 publication) made me wonder....
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How do you choose your character names? What about all of the side characters? Do you have a tool, method, process.....or do you just pray for inspiration?

Here are some things I have done:

Dig through my own family tree. My MC in With A Name Like Love is Ollie. Her name came from a family history search....she is a great, great aunt that lived back in the late 1800's.

The MC for my next WIP is Adalee. I got her name from a tombstone in the tiny town of Milo, Idaho. I was there for a family funeral and fell in love with that name.

For side characters, I have used this baby name book. I picked it up at a thrift store for 50 cents. It has been helpful.



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What stories surround your character names? Do the names have hidden meanings? Have you ever used and old flame's name?
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Let us know!
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17 comments:

ElanaJ said...

Hmm...I have had this exact discussion on my blog. I won't give you the whole nine yards, but for one of my novels, I watched and took notes on American Gladiators. :)

Lisa said...

I used the name Annabel for the MC in my WIP because I gave birth to a son instead of a daughter. I was convinced we were having a girl, and we had picked out the names Annabel and Daphne. Then Alexander showed up. I suppose I had put some of my heart in the other names, because when I started writing a novel 18 months after he was born, the name came naturally from the tip of my pen.

Now if we have a girl, I don't suppose I can use the name again...

Scott said...

For the most part, the names just come to me . . .at least for mainstream fiction. When I do writing in the fantasy genre, I search the baby names, but often go to Greek, Irish, or other nationalities to find the name. Sometimes, I have the basic idea of 'who' the character will be in my mind, just no name, and scrolling through the easily accessible lists of names and reading the meanings of those names, makes the name choice a bit easier.

Lisa and Laura said...

We just pick names that sound like our characters...we do a lot of characterization first and then we can usually hit on a name that just sounds right.

You've got to check out Elana's blog discussion on this. She's got charts and everything.

Robyn said...

Hey Tess. My main character in my WIP, that is ALMOST ready, comes from my grandma, Anna. I wanted Irish so I went with that. Also, I always turn to the phone book. :)

MeganRebekah said...

I used a baby name search engine. I was actually looking for a name with a specific meaning (that at the time was related to the character).
Later I flipped around the character a bit but kept the name because I loved it.

Jill Kemerer said...

Most of the time they just come to me. For my current book, I pictured the heroine as having Scandinavian roots, so I Googled Scandinavian names. It not only wasted time, it was fun too!

Wendy said...

I like symbolism, so sometimes I'll try to find something with a subtle symbolic meaning that will tie into the theme. Otherwise, I need my names to sound right together...like for a couple I won't name them John and Joanna, unless I want that tie, that link.

By the way, I've been meaning to tell you...YOU have my favorite picture for your profile. It makes me want to go kiss my husband every time I see it. It truly is inspiring!
~ Wendy

Lady Glamis said...

What cracks me up is that my parent's cute dog is named Ollie. LOL! But I think it's a brilliant name for your character. And you know I love the name LOVE. I'm jealous we're both using it... hehehe.

I choose names by brainstorming with my friends and fellow writers. It's a fun process. I also get ideas from movie credits. It works great!

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, and yes, many of my names are symbolic in one way or another. The name of my MC in Monarch (the female MC) is a little play on words that not many people get right of the bat.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I've found names in every way possible--from genealogy & historic research, gods and goddesses, the phone book. For my fantasy book, my main characters' first names are Lux and Umbra, which are Latin for Sunlight and Shadow. I have two books set in the south, and I used my school year books to pick names.

For the book I'm writing now, the names are purposefully misleading. My MC's name is AJ, which stands for Annabelle Justina, but he's a boy. His new friend's name is Wendy but she insists on being called Claudia, after the girl vampire in "Interview with the Vampire".

Stephanie said...

I do baby name searches online...if I need a name that will fit a certain background..one of my books is about a Wiccan family...so I chose names of the goddesses they worship. Another I needed a Mexican name. For one story I looked through names that were popular the year my MC was born.

I have also used names I had picked out for my kids..some are ones my husband discarded immediately (Preston) and others are names I had picked out, but we didn't get to use (I was so in love with the name Mia...but baby #2 was a boy..and we are done!)

Cindy said...

I do exactly what you wrote at the beginning of the post! I keep a notebook with my in my purse so when I go to a movie, if I see a good name in the credits I can write it down. Otherwise I get names from other books, from baby naming sites on-line, from friends or names I hear mothers shout out in the grocery stores when they're trying to find their kids.

Usually the first name I think of is the one I stick with for my character, but on occasion I will change it later because it just doesn't fit.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Hah! I so have a baby book of names too. :)

Davin Malasarn said...

I'm with Lady Glamis. I like it when names can add an extra dimension to a story. I try to pick names that reference other things, sometimes ironic or revealing things, about the story/characters. I think Forrest Gump was named after a Nazi uncle or something in the movie--I probably have that completely wrong. I like that concept though. Or naming a woman Juliet and having her die tragically in a love story would reference Shakespeare. Names determine your life in many ways, so they can be very important.

Windsong said...

I used to go through the baby book. Now it just depends. Some of the names come to me, while others I have to seek out. Usually I decide on a meaning I want the character to have, and then I search for a name with that meaning.

Tess said...

Great comments guys! I agree on the importance of finding a name that fits the character -- if it matches his/her physical traits or if it has meaning to the character's journey - either way.

It's fun to have blogging friends to talk about these things with!