I’m horrible at naming characters. Every writer has their own method, but I figured I’d share mine since it appears I’m not the only writer having trouble with this.
When I wrote Immortal Ties, I had a perfect vision in mind for each character and had them all named except one. The character would be a vampire that my main character, Dagan, had known for centuries and he was going to be tall, a biker, and German. I went ahead with creating a background for him, figured out what his likes and dislikes were, created a good, thorough character sketch and THEN began researching German names. I wanted popular names and unpopular ones, too. I eventually settled with Simon Nikolas as his name, even though it’s not a name I’d choose for my child. I chose a name that I knew would carry the character and serve a purpose, which it did.
But, I also chose this name because it started with an S. No other characters in that book had a name beginning with an S. At least not a main character and I already knew that Simon would be the hero in the next Immortal book. I don’t like having too many characters with names beginning with the same letter unless there is a set of twins named Tim and Tom or something like that–and even then, I shy away from it as much as possible.
I also try to choose names that are relevant to the character’s background. For example: If your character lives in medieval Romania, I find it highly unlikely his name would be Randy. Gyorgy, maybe. Or Fitzkobal. Or Pal. Not Randy. However, medieval Romanian people did have a lot of names that are just earlier versions of names we have today, so you can always choose a name like George and convert it to Gyorgy for your story. It just takes a little bit of research. And if your character is a vampire, he may have started out as Gyorgy and lived several centuries to become George. Finding names for historical characters can take a little bit of research (and this is where Google and Bing come in handy), but finding a relevant name is rewarding in the end. Never settle for guesses. Your readers are smarter than that and they deserve more.
Sometimes names for characters just sort of come out of nowhere. When I began writing Willow Lake, the name for my main character was just the first name I thought of. Celia Burne! I love the name Celia, though, and always wanted to use it, so I did. After I chose her name, everything about her seemed to just fall into place. Of course, most of her personality was already there, but little bits and pieces I hadn’t figured out began to weave themselves into the Celia Burne fabric lol. It’s perfectly fine to pick names this way, so never feel horrible or unprofessional because the names of your characters do not have some sort of special meaning.
A good way to find names you might like is to use Google or Bing to find baby names. When you find a name you like, read the meaning and sometimes that meaning can help you figure the rest of the character out if you haven’t already. If you have written a character sketch already (or developed one in your head), but you hadn’t chosen a name, sometimes the name meanings can help you write out scenes or visualize this character further.
There is one thing I want to give warning about, though. When you’re writing a book and you choose your names, be careful about the connotation that comes with certain names.
Example: Ellen. Just about everybody knows someone named Ellen and there is also Ellen Degeneres. We all know who she is also. When you hear the name Ellen, you might think of your aunt Ellen who always wins the prize for best pie at the family reunion or you might think of Ellen Degeneres, which would take a reader’s mind away from the Ellen you want to write in your story because when you write a sentence that says, “Ellen walked down steps” your readers are imagining Ellen Degeneres dancing up and down the aisles at the studio where her shows are filmed. Be mindful of things like these–most popular names already have a connotation with readers.
This is where I’d say making sure your characters are very well fleshed out helps a great deal. This can ensure that your readers aren’t picturing Ellen Degeneres dancing every single time they read about your main character, Ellen. (As a side note, I’m now picturing Ellen Degeneres dancing in my head because I love her! HA! )
Go through lists of names before you decide and read through those lists until you find a name that stands out to you. Read about that name. Google to see if anyone famous has that name if you want to (just because it’s fun). But, you should never think that it’s harder than it is. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a serious pain in the butt, but when you find names you like and they work with the story, it’s great and it helps your story along.
In other news today…
I got a new book in the mail. I won a contest recently. Rhiannon Frater had written a new novella in the Pretty When She Dies universe, and she couldn’t choose a name for it. The contest was that the name with the most likes (I think…) won. Mine won. The title is Pretty When They Collide and the cover is great and I’m going to start reading it tonight just as soon as I finish helping my son with his homework.
A good book to read is what the doctor ordered, folks. Seriously, lately I’ve been running on fumes! And with that, I leave you 😀 Night, folks! ~Rhiannon Mills