Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: Will Just Any Name Do?



The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers whose purpose is to share with and encourage other writers. Writers can express doubts and concerns and offer & receive encouragement and guidance.  IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month.  Be sure to check out other IWSG writers/bloggers here:  IWSG Members


Will Just Any Name Do?

I've heard it said it's easier to name your own babies than it is to name your book characters.  Sometimes, I think that might be true.  My husband & I easily narrowed name choices down to one before the birth of our son (good thing it wasn't a girl).  The name we chose just seemed right, seemed to fit even before his birth.  On the other hand, I always struggle with naming my book characters.  I can spend hours running name choices through my mind, trying them on a character, only to disregard them as not quite right.  Sometimes, I ask myself if it really matters what name I choose for my characters?  A name is a name is a name, right?  One's just as good as the next?  What difference does the name make as long as he/she comes when I call?  

Okay, I know it matters.  Even a writer with less experience choosing names, such as myself, realizes a character's name is important. I know some of the reasons why, some of the dos & don'ts.  But now, I'm calling on more experienced writers, many of you with successfully named book characters (or maybe in your own eyes, unsuccessfully) to share some of your hints, tips, dos & don'ts with the rest of us. What do you absolutely have to know before naming your book characters?  What do you consider a big No-No when naming characters?

Here are a few things most writer's seem to agree on:


Do:

  • Look at the Era, Location, Ethnicity, Ancestry & Age of your character
  • Have a good visualization of your character
  • Reflect your character's personality
  • Consider the Root meaning of names
  • Consider the Initials & what they may spell
  • For me personally, genre plays a part in my character name choices.  
Don't:

  • Copy famous names
  • Use hard to pronounce names
  • Use a name inappropriate to the cultural & ethnic background
  • Use a name uncommon to the time period
  • Use names that sound the same

What are some things you consider when naming your characters?  Do you choose names before you begin writing your book or are names something that you figure out later, once you've gotten into the story and have a better understanding of your characters & their roles?  Have you ever started with a name & then later found the character it belonged to?  Or do you always start with an in-depth visualization of a character before searching for the right name?  What do you need to know in order to name your babies?

There are many places to look for name ideas...baby name books/lists, phone book, movie credits, obituaries (yes, even there), online name generators, & even character naming books.  The easy part is finding lots of names to choose from, the hard part is choosing the perfect name that nails the essence of your character...one that will become memorable to readers.  



So, how do you choose the perfect character name each time?  Do you follow certain guidelines for naming your babies?  Have you developed a secret works every time formula?  Or will just any name do?  

4 comments:

  1. I think your do's and don'ts covered most of the points in naming your characters. Personally I like looking at name meanings as it'll relate to my character's personality. And or role in the story. Sometimes I'd start off with the perfect name to only change it later down the road. A fellow Scrib member once said in the forums that you can name your character's by sound. So if your character is a harsh person, using a name that sounds harsh and menacing when you say it, is the way to go. And I know most authors already know their character's names and never deviate from it. I'd say you're on the right track and to just stalk those baby sites and list. And trust your gut instinct

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    1. Thanks for some good tips, Lidy. I'll add naming character's by sound...great idea!

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  2. Sandra, many of my names come from book bindings. I'll use a first name from one author and the second name from another author. Once my neighbor was cranking out Jimi Hendrix, so I named two security guards Henrix and James. Sometimes its that easy.

    Stephen Tremp
    IWSG Co-host

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    1. What an awesome idea, Stephen! I love it. Thanks for sharing that idea.

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