Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cassy's Corner- Naming your Characters


I’ve written about this before. But, here I go again. How do you name your characters? I’ve found that the names have to resonate with me. There is some mix of the person you are writing about matching with the moniker you’ve given him or her. You can practically date someone by the name. If I asked you when a Doris was born versus a Chloe, you’d be quick to reply. So, how do we pick and choose what we call our characters and what does that portray to our readers?
One of the beefs I have with the way an author picks names is to have them similar. Jeff, James, John, and George. I confess I become confused. There have been times when I’ve had to flip the pages backwards to remind myself just who was James- was he the good guy, the mystery person or the side kick?
I use a silly technique for naming. I write down two columns from A- Z. As I name a character the space next to the letter of the first name and last, if it’s pertinent, is filled in. No two characters can have a name that begin with the same letter or sound similar. So, if I have a Caroline there is no Catherine.
That said, what about the name connecting with you- the writer. I wrote almost 200 pages before I realized that I really didn’t like my character. Thinking more hours than it probably deserved, I realized I did like her. But, she had the wrong name. Once I changed her name from Sophia to Anne, we not only got along much better but she become more alive for me.
When writing a full-length book, you spend a huge amount of time with these quirky, free-thinking, usually independent characters. Picking their names is more important than many would imagine. 

6 comments:

Anita Clenney said...

Names are so important. First I just kind of "feel" for the character's name, then I make sure the main characters'names work well together and that there aren't any other characters starting with the same letter or too similar.

With my first book, I didn't do this at first and I had to change the heroine's name. It took forever to get used to the new name. I also ran into a problem because all the warrior names I wanted ended in "N". Faelan, Ronan, Duncan... I did give somewhat on that because I felt the names needed to be what they were. Not all end with "N" but more than I would normally want to use.

Cassy Pickard said...

Anita! Good morning. I agree with you about the "feel" of a name, hence my comment about changing the name of my heroine after many many pages. Once I renamed her she came together much more easily.

You raise a good point about the ending of names. I have thought more about the first letters. Now I'll have to go back and check if I have too many that almost rhyme.

Liz Lipperman said...

Characters are key to my plotting, and like you, I use the A_B_C thing. the one thing I would suggest (my copy editor does it for me and it is so helpful) is to keep a diary of all the names, especially if you are writing a series. She asked me to change a secondary character's name because in book one, I mentioned this guy who worked where my heroine did and had the same name. Mind you, it was only mentioned once in the first book and not at all in the second. So names are important.

Lindsay said...

I agree that getting the right name for the right character is very important. This is so true, like Liz said, in a series. Nut not only the name but how it's spelled. For the four seconday characteries, Emily' team, in my series finding the right ones was hard. I wanted two men and two women. The men's names weren't that hard but finding the right names for the women was. Then one day the name Wallis Simpson slipped into my mind and I had it. I took Wallace and Jack and made the names feminine by adding 'ie' at the end, Wallie and Jackie, and it worked.
The other part in finding names is for the collies in my Christmas story. Several already had names, Kebi, Dakota, Nibs and Patches since they are featured in other stories. I still had to come up with the name for one of the girls since she hadn't been mentioned yet in a book, Roxy. Coming up with the names for the collie puppies and their mother that were rescued was the most challenging. FOr what their mother, Sasha called them was easy, their personality but coming up with the final names the kids would call them was darn near impossible. I asked parents who had small children within the ages of the story children to get my ideas. Of course coming up with seven names for the children wasn't to hard nor were the names for the villians. For them, the villians, though I wanted biblical names.
I guess I've been lucky that my editor hasn't wanted me to change any names yet.

Anita Clenney said...

For my villain, I just make up their names. Tristol, Druan, Malek, Voltar. I do google the word to make sure it doesn't have some meaning I'm unaware of.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I think about who my characters are, and then try to pick a name that fits them according to their personality as well as their nationality. And only recently I've started making that alphebet list which has helped a lot in avoiding names with the same letters :-)