Monday, February 7, 2011

The Name Game

I'm sure I've posted about this topic, but I was thinking about it over the weekend because in my most recent WiP I'm undecided about my male MCs name.

 Naming your characters. I don't have a specific method. Most of the time, the characters just name themselves and I have to like it. The names usually fit, so I don't change them. In WiP #1, I did change my MCs best friend's name just because it reminded me of another character from another book. I still refer back to that name now and again when I write her.

Besides the characters insisting what their name is, I use a couple of other methods if I'm unsure or stuck.

Here is what I do:
1. So, if you have no name, not even an inkling, go to a site that lists names and meanings or a baby name site like or This could get the juices flowing or totally overwhelm you, but it's a start.

2. Sometimes a letter appeals to the character like"J", but you can't figure out a name. Then go to the sites above and look for names with that letter.

3. The name of the character has to mean something. If this is a must, go to a site like the ones above and look for a name that means what you want it to mean.

4. If you want something different, combine names. Like Mattames --Matthew and James put together. I'm sure that was a bad example. It's early people.

5. If your story takes place in a certain land, mystical or real, it can have an effect on the names you choose. This can go into the make things up catagory, especially if it's a mystical place. If it's a real place, then research people. The internet is a wonderful place. Must research.

Things to avoid.
1. Right now, I'm avoiding the name Bella for obvious reasons. Sometimes names are over done or can totally make someone think of another character from another book. This can lead the reader to keep thinking of that other book. Unless, you totally blow them away with your character, which I know you will, try and find something that is uniquely yours.

2. Names that are not easy to pronounce. Unless you somehow show the pronunciation of a difficult name, try to use something simple. I have seen this done, and done well enough that I could pronounce the name. Usually done through dialogue, which to me is great, but I know I couldn't pull this off, at least not right now.

Any methods on your naming of characters?

Anything I missed?

How was your weekend? Any goals?

I actually had a revelation this weekend for WiP #1 and hope to remedy it in my revisions this week. It does require some re-writing, but I'm used to that now. I have a CP who is waiting, and I feel so bad. My goal: revisions. I know you are so surprised at that.

I'm also getting countertops in the whole kitchen renovation thing, which has turned my house upside down. I'm so excited because I will finally have a kitchen sink after 3 weeks. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could actually get back to some sort of normal routine. Ahhh! Oh, maybe, I can finish my revisions and possibly finish a first draft of another WiP that is waiting. Okay, I'm dreaming.

Have a great day!


  1. I sometimes have a letter. It's all I know. Where the name starts. Sometimes I find that difficult, moving away from so solid a structure, but I don't want to waver. This person is a H, definitely. Or a J.

  2. Hope the revisions go well and you work in your new revelation.

    These are great tips on naming! My characters generally name themselves which saves me some hardwork but when they fail at that, I'll be sure to keep these tips in mind!

  3. Sometimes they come right away, other times, it takes a bit. I usually draw from the names I like and find one that matches my character's personality. I have googled last names for ideas though.

  4. Sometimes names just come to me, and sometimes I have to spend hours on baby name sites. Such arduous research. :) Good luck with revisions!

  5. I play a name game. I write the alphabet a row for boys and girls. Then I go as fast as I can and fill in a name for each side. Then I go to a phone book and open it up randomly and start filling in last names. Somehow I manage to get a few full names that sounds really good.

  6. Sounds like you're super busy with so many things Christine. I'm thrilled you're finally getting your countertops.... YAY!

    I also see you back in the grind and over your temporary set back. GOOD JOB! I;m proud of you.

    I love naming characters. For my fantasy writing i do look up names that have a certain meaning. It's actually something I enjoy.

    For my present novel their names spoke to me. They fit my characters well and hopefully they will make an impact on the readers.

    I'm in major reconstruction of my first novel. I'm taking it from a y/a to an m/g because my characters are younger. So the 70,000 word ms needs to be trimmed down. I'm have a rough go because believe it or not this ms started out at over 125,000 words. I've already cut over 50,000 (a novel in itself) and now I need to take off a minimum of 10,000 words. NOT FUN. But hopefully I can do it without killing the beautiful details I love so much. Fantasy needs these details for the reader to envision your world.

    Have a great week.


  7. I have a terrible time with names. Very rarely will the perfect name pop into my head. It doesn't help that I'm uber-picky about most girl names, especially the more common ones. Guy names are generally a bit easier...

    The social security website is pretty good for seeing what names were most popular in certain birth years. Or, if I have a particularly ethnicity/culture in mind, I'll search for those types of names.

  8. There was a box of free books yesterday at church. Most were baby/pregnancy related. I grabbed the baby name book. Let's see what kind of rumors are flying by next Sunday.

    LOL, and no. Four is ENOUGH!

  9. Summer's suggestion of the Social Security site is an excellent one. It's especially helpful when you need to name folks from a generation other than your own--like a teen's grandparents, or kids in a historial piece. The SS administration records go back to like 1897.

    I also have loved a book called "Beyond Jennifer and Jason," which talks about name image. The first edition came out in the 80s and an updated edition in the mid 90s, so it's a smidge dated for like MG characters. But I still find it really helpful to hear how the authors categorize names along the masculine and feminine continuum, for example--Clara vs. Claire vs. Clarice vs. Clarissa. You can change a lot about a character by picking a slightly different version of a name.

    If you are looking for ethnic names, especially last names, church graveyards are the way to go. I have even used Google images to research this--I kid you not! Took a gander around a graveyard in the Brittany area of France!

  10. Naming characters. That can be hard! I bought a big book of baby names when I started writing and I use it often. I just search until a name feels right. :)

  11. The right name generally comes to me as I write, but I have been known to change some along the way, especially for popularity reasons (fitting with the age of the character).For that, I use the Social Security website too. It's:

    I have researched specific ethnic names on occasion also.

  12. Thanks for the suggestions, I have a hard time with names unless they come to me immediately. Can't wait to check out behind the name site.

  13. I do the whole babyname website thing. I also look in my baby name books...interestingly, I named my youngest son after one of my characters and did't even realize it until a CP pointed it out to me!

  14. argh. Names... :p

    I don't have a method, but I do my very best to try and avoid that whole "sticking to one letter" thing--you know where you name your characters Jennifer, James, Jeff, Joe, and Dad Johnny? wow. I do that one a lot... LOL! :D <3

  15. Since I write science fiction, most of my names are made up, and I enjoy the process. I just brainstorm unique but short (and easy to pronounce) words that could also be names. They tend to have a certain style as well.

  16. Hey, we have kitchen chaos too! We are painting our cabinets. (And by we, I mean my husband. My part is to stand over his shoulder and critique.)

    If the character is based on a historical person, (as in the current manuscript I have on sub), I take the real name and alter it slightly. Edmund Gurney becomes Edward Garrett. Eusapia Palladino becomes Vittoria Picarella. In the manuscript that was inspired by some real caged graves in Catawissa, Pa, I took the names right off the tombstones: Sarah Ann Boone and her husband Ransloe; Asenath Thomas and her husband John.

    Otherwise, I make lists of names and revisit them over days and weeks, crossing them off one at a time until one stands out as the clear winner.

  17. I love naming once I know them. Much easier than naming before you have an idea about them IMO. Have fun on revisions this week!

  18. It's very frustrating when a character's name doesn't just appear along with the character. But then it can be a bit like a scavenger hunt to figure out the dude's name! Oy!

  19. I go with my gut on naming my characters, usually it just comes to me and I go with it. Hasn't failed so far. I identify with #2 on what not to do, however - very few people have ever pronounced my name correctly the first time... :)

  20. I do the baby naming sites too, but my favorite method for picking names is reading the credits for TV shows and movies. I've found so many interesting names that way, especially last names. :)

    Good luck with your revisions!

  21. Sometimes I tell folks I'm stuck on my blog. The first to comment, I usually go with their first name or last name. Some name themselves instantly, some I have to wait on and they change their name every other hour.

  22. I think I've used all those methods. I've also stolen interesting names sometimes . .

    My three MC names are Amy, Cal, and Robert, and I swear every book I pick up has some combination of those names. I've thought about changing them, but I've tried to stick to fairly common names for my womens fic; the theme being it could happen to anyone. Guess I'll just have to see how an editor feels about it all :)

    Good luck with your weekly goal. I'm hoping to finish the first draft of a story I have to present to my writers group in a couple weeks.