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Naming Characters
Monday, June 26, 2006
Almost every author blog has, at some point or another, a post about the difficulty in finding the right name for a character. Everybody has their own way of finding them and everybody has names they would never use.

I certainly couldn't give a hero or heroine a name that belonged to somebody I've had a negative experience with at some time or another, although I could quite happily use on of those names for the wicked step-mother type characters.

I have a word document that's full of names. Well, two of them, actually. Two documents, that is, not two names. One for female names and one for male. Every time I hear or see a name that I like the sound of, into the document it goes. It doesn't necessarily have to be a nice name as such, but one that I feel could be turned into a character.

Y'see, most times, when I'm developing a new character, I just pick a name and try to envisage who would have that name. What would she look like? How would she speak? What would she wear? Where would she work? In fact, I often find that's the easiest way to build a character as the times I've developed my character first and then tried to find a name... well, I wouldn't like to say how long I've spent trying to find the right one. No, the name into character way definitely works best for me.

Obviously, if it's the mean aunt or a miserable uncle I'm trying to find a name for, I'll only look at names that immediately conjure up unpleasant characters, but as I have them in a separate area of my file, that's easy enough. Where an Ivy, to me, would be a kindly woman, a Doris wouldn't. So I'd grab Doris from the list and start imagining her, gradually fleshing her out until I have a fully-formed character to use.

But I have been known to find character names purely by accident, too. Like the old woman I called Daisy because she was a miserable old cow and the hero I called Lance because he was so sharp witted.

I'm always fascinated by what others do so if you have the time, stop by the comments box and let me know how you go about naming your characters, would you? Or if you have a post on your own blog about it, just point me in the right direction.

An article by Caro Clarke - Problems With Names & How To Avoid Them

Not about naming your characters but what to look out for so that you don't give them the wrong kind of names.


Technorati Tags: Naming Characters, Writing Novels, Fiction
Posted by Sharon J on 10:57 PM   

Blogger Sue aka MsCreativity said...

You've already left a comment on my blog:
It's All in the Name

I do find it difficult to come up with the 'right' names for my characters, although I'm finding that as they develop in my mind they soon tell me if I've got their name wrong...

10:52 AM   

Anonymous strugglingwriter said...

Keeping a document with intersting names is a great idea. I had not thought of that. I often struggle with character names.

6:24 PM   

Anonymous Sharon said...

Funnily enough, Sue, it was writing that comment that got me thinking about how I go about finding names and I realised that what I wrote on your blog wasn't entirely right. While it's true that I do sometimes create the character first (as in the case of Leo/Dan), as I wrote in this post, a lot of the time it's the name that comes first and the character grows out of that. A lot actually depends on the kind of story I'm writing and how it occured to me. If the characters came first then obviously I have to find a name to suit them but if it was jut a storyline that appeared, then I can find names and let the characters develop. Phew. Did you understand that?

Strugglingwriter. Yes, a document of names is useful, there's no doubt about that. I even have names for pets in mine!

9:05 PM   

Anonymous Karen Lee Field said...

As I write fantasy novels I need unusual names. I have often looked around the room and played with words for objects I see to get a name (jumble the letters), for example: clock might become Loc. For me, the name has to be easy to read and say. I hate weird looking names that a human just can't get their tongue around.

12:18 AM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Me too, Karen. If fact, it's the awful names that some authors use that has put me off reading fantasy. My imagination just can't develop a credible character around a name like Ighthatenth.

BTW, have you seen the Fantasy Name Generator?

1:14 AM   

Blogger Debi said...

Hmmm. As soon as I have my character, I sits and I muses and I thinks about what their name is.
I can't explain why but when I try saying a few possibilities out loud I absolutely know when I've got the right one and never look back.
So having a pre-written list wouldn't work for me as that would be a case of the name coming before the character. The only way I think a list would be useful would be if I had their traits and probably also their appearance listed with their names. Then I could use the whole person in the future.
Sorry - I know that's not very helpful, but it's what works for me ...

11:20 AM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

It's just interesting to hear what others do, Debi. I find it fascinating how we all have different approaches to what's essentially the same thing, isn't it?

3:56 PM   

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