Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Names

A character's name is such an important part of a book. It can't be too odd, well, I guess it can ... but it has to be unique. And it helps if the reader is able to pronounce it. ;)

It's hard thinking of names, since there are so many that have been used in other books. How many of us would name a character, Bella now? Or Edward? Or Harry even? It stinks that some names will automatically make us think of another book. It's normal though. Even if the characters are totally different. As long as your character and book is unique, then it won't matter.

I like different names. Not too out there, but I like names that haven't been overused. Sometimes I'll find myself so happy about a name and then realize it's been used in another book. When I was writing Not Your Average Fairy Tale, I named my MC Ash. There is an Ash in a popular book and I didn't really think about it until I was finished writing my book. Will I change it? No. He is an Ash. And an Ash he will stay. I just had to make him unique and without the similarities of said other Ash. :)

I'm curious how you guys think of your names? It's hard sometimes. These characters are a part of us. It's like naming a child! (Not really that deep, but sort of.) You stay with them for weeks. Months and even years! They become a part of you and who really wants a character that you absolutely hate the name you gave them? Has that ever happened to you? It's happened to me a few times. I realize the name just isn't working and have to change it to something else. It's not too hard, since Word is awesome, but it's still a little hard getting that new name in my head.

What kind of names do you like? Old? New? Unique? Plain? Where do you get them?

27 comments:

Stephanie McGee said...

Names are so hard sometimes. And I hear you on changing names and it taking a while for the new one to stick.

I had two boys named Jarred and Edwin in fantasy WiP. I named them that long before Twilight.

Yeah, their names got changed. But after having written the entire 90K+ first draft? Talk about a nightmare. Those boys did not want a different name.

I go to baby name sites, name generators, and anywhere I can think of to find a good name. Pronounceable is good, but it's a delicate balance with writing fantasy sometimes.

Lauri said...

I have such a hard time with character names. Sometimes I know the character has a certain name, but it's one I can't really use because I also have a family member, or friend, or student with a similar name. I've started to keep a list of good names to pick from. And I love watching movie credits to find new names.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Stephanie McGee Didn't Twilight kill everything? lol Just kidding. I like Twilight. Everyone just compares EVERYTHING to Twilight and it drives me crazy. I agree about the delicate balance with writing fantasy. It's hard to come up with really unique names that are also pronounceable. :)
@Lauri I've never even thought of watching movie credits to find new names! Great idea! :D

Ru said...

I bought a baby names book a few years ago. It gets realllll awkward when dates see it on my bookshelves.

J. Thomas Ross said...

I also watch movie credits for names. And I bought a thick book of baby names, which gives their meanings too. That helps for first names. For last names, I open up the phone book. Since I'm writing science fiction and fantasy, I sometimes just create a name.

Jen said...

Picking names is a real struggle for me and I tend to err on the side of caution. My MC's name is Marion and though you could think of Robin Hood I don't think it's been used recently enough that it would make others think about someone else, but I don't really know.

Katie Dodge said...

You know how bad I am at picking a name. It's hard to find the perfect one sometimes!

M.J. Fifield said...

I have a baby name book that I'll occasionally use for reference because sometimes I want a character's name to mean something specific.

The names for my MCs in my fantasy series were chosen because I just liked how they looked on the page. One of them starts with an H because I decided I just wanted to use an H name.

Michael Offutt said...

All the names that I use for my manuscripts belonged to former friends of mine that moved on and had families. It's a way to spend time with them in my head I think...even though the characters are nothing like them.

Carol Riggs said...

Great thoughts. I HATE having to rename my characters (often I have to cuz I realize I've named a couple of them starting with the same letter...oops). It does startle me when I read another book that has the same character name as in a novel I've written. It's just not RIGHT. ;o)

Emily Rittel-King said...

I choose my character's names like I chose my children's names: I go by how they feel. If they feel right, they're right. It doesn't matter if they're old or new, a name has to fit the character. Can you imagine Romeo and Juliet being called anything else? Shakespeare really knew how to pick 'em!

Emily said...

I like to look up names from different cultures and with specific meanings (google). Even then they sometimes still sound normal or like it's for an older generation. Then I usually call them by their nickname. Just like with my own kids, I like the one syllable names.

Maggie said...

I think it was you who had a character named Trey on your blog recently and I told you my current novel's main guy is Trae.

Overlaps are going to happen. Just like in the real world when we think our baby's name is oh-so-unique and then we realize every third family on the block just named their son Aiden. (not that I used that name, but you get the picture).

One funny thing about the find/replace key for names though: you need to check every replacement. For instance I replaced Pat with Ruth. So other words beginning with Pat such as Pattern ended up Ruthtern. I know there are fancy "case only" ways to catch this, but I forgot when I replaced them all.

Jordan McCollum said...

I love names! I have a whole bunch of resources I like to use (I linked my name to my blog post on the subject), and they include the Social Security Administration's baby name records (anachronistic names drive me nuts!), Nymbler.com, The Baby Name Wizard book and The Baby Name Survey book.

Jenny said...

I usually look up names that mean something about the characters personality. My MC's name is Kella, which means Warrior. It doesn't always work, but that's where I start.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Ru Ha ha ha! Hilarious!
@J. Thomas Ross I need to get on this baby name book thing... It seems like everyone uses them! Thanks for stopping by! :D
@Jen I LOVE the name Marion. I think it's great! And I didn't even think of Robin Hood until you pointed it out. :)
@Katie Dodge Whatever! You aren't bad at picking names at all! Dork! ;)
@M.J. Fifield I tend to use a lot of K names. I've been trying to cut back, but I LIKE those K names! :)
@Michael Offutt That's cool! I've named a few characters after people I know. Mostly cameos in the books, but they're still there! :)
@Carol Riggs I hate it too. It's so annoying when a name just doesn't work. :P And I hear ya about novels with the same character names as you! What were they thinking??!! ;)
@Emily Rittel-King That is very true. The name HAS to fit the character. I can't see Romeo and Juliet going by Joe and Sue instead. ;)
@Emily I really like knowing meanings to names as well. Even though I sometimes forget to look them up until way later. :)
@Maggie Yep! Trey is my love. He he. :) I agree about finding and replacing. Sometimes they replace more than just names! Learned that the hard way... ;)
@Jordan McCollum Cool! Thanks for the resources! I need to take a look at them... :)
@Jenny I freaking love your avatar! So cute. And I love that name. I have a weakness for K names. Don't ask me why. :P

Melanie Stanford said...

That's funny- I'm going to post on names today too! I put a lot of thought into my characters names and I'm always surprised (and a little disappointed) when I read them somewhere else.

Ruth Josse said...

Haha Ru, that's funny!

I like names that aren't too out there but not too common. I guess that's called the middle ground. I really like a name that has meaning so I'll look up my character's various traits and see what comes up.

kirstenlopresti said...

I don't worry that much about whether my characters names are unusual or common, but I do try to make them age appropriate. I wouldn't for instance name an old lady Amber or Ashly or name a teenager Mabel.

ab said...

Oh my goodness... why am I just getting started on this blog? I am going to have to read it daily to get me motivated and unafraid enough to "go for it!"
This is FABULOUS! Keep it up!

Angie Cothran said...

I write down great names I hear and see. I always make my husband sit through movie credits--just in case I find a great name. I really like last names as first names, but that is kind of a Utah thing.

Sarah Pearson said...

I had a character with a name and an ability before I had a story for him. I wrote the story and his abilities changed. I had to change his name because that particular guy had those particular skills. I may write about him in the future and he can't have another name.

I'm sorry if that doesn't make sense. I think it's time to sleep :)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

@Melanie Stanford Yay for posting the same! :D
@Ruth Josse I really need to look up my characters names and see what they mean. I've never even though about it before. Crazy huh?
@kirstenlopresti Ha! A teenager named Mabel. That would be awesome! ;)
@ab Thanks, Abby! :D
@Angie Cothran Yes, I really do think it's a Utah thing. :) Yay for Utah girls! ;)
@Sarah Pearson It does make sense! Don't worry! ;)

Trisha said...

I personally prefer to have a range of names - some are plain and 'boring', others are cool and 'rock star'-ish. hehe. I have a thing for giving daggy names to awesome characters. I wrote a teenaged hero recently (short story) called Bruce.

Misha said...

This might sound weird, but my characters tell me their names. :-)

Patti said...

Sometimes I think I wrote books because I love to name my characters. For my first book, since it was based on Iceland legend, I tried to use all Icelandic names. My second book is based in Old England (1400's) so I used names from that time period.

My current WIP is more contemporary and my mom said she grew up with a girl named Sunny Irving and that name has kind of stuck with me.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I have to name my MC before I do anything else. None of my characters have crazy names, because I find those distracting. But I have two very normal MC names and two that are distinctive and fun and there's a back story to the name, and that's really fun too.