Monday, April 5, 2010

The Character Name Game

For my writer followers, how do you come up with your character names?

Doesn't that seem harder than coming up with the story sometimes? You want something original, but nothing like Apple, Dweezil, or Moon Unit. Maybe you like your best friend's name, but worry about using the name of someone you know? Maybe you have the urge to name your antagonist after your ex, but worry they just might one day pick up your book and read it?

Choosing names is hard. For my first novel (yes, I'm still taking a break after that huge revision... I think I deserve it, right?), I realized I had too many J names. There were three. THREE of my main characters... AND they all ended with N. Not cool. Too confusing. So after tweaking, I realized I had too many M's. There are still several that end in N (hey, it's natural... Kristin ends in N!), but none of my Betas have pointed it out as a nuisance, so for now, they stay.

Now that I'm starting a new young adult WIP (title to be revealed SOON!), here I am with the names all over again. The main boy's name came easy this time, and I had to come up with two names for the girl (I can't tell you why). I pulled all these names out of the air this time, but often I find myself poking around the baby name websites to get ideas. Do you do that, too?

Also, I needed several names for characters that were a bit older once, and I found that you can search by year on the Social Security website for popular names. A lot of you probably already knew that, but for those that didn't, it's a nifty resource.

So what about you? Does naming your characters come easy, or is it torture?


24 comments:

  1. Baby name places are lifesavers! It gives me time to think about what names work best! I also decide where I'm originating the MC from and then google the origin and popular names!!

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  2. I agree with the baby name places. And I like to look out for street signs.

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  3. I didn't realize that the ss website could do that...would be a great tool for a book that takes place in the past.

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  4. It's pure torture! I'm having the same problem as you right now. And the fact that I have the big book of 1001 baby names and I'm an incredibly indecisive person doesn't help me. At all! Haha. :)

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  5. I hate naming characters! It's so hard! Usually, I come up with the girl names easier because I have a lot of favorites. But boy names come a lot harder. I have to search and search to come up with just 1 I like. Sometimes, I find good ones by stealing them from classic literature that I love. I named one of my characters Bennett/Ben after Elizabeth Bennett one time. :)

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  6. I probably should pay closer attention to my characters names...but usually I just pick names of people I know.

    There could be a Kristin in my next one! :)

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  7. I love choosing my characters' names! So much can be implied by a name. I usually base my characters off of people I know, and I like to choose similar names. For instance, my friend Jane became June in one of my short stories because she absolutely loves summer and has golden hair. I thought it fit her personality perfectly.

    Good luck with coming up your names!

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  8. I love choosing character names, but I've got one character's whose perfect name eludes me still. I use baby name websites too and follow link after link of similar names.

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  9. Choosing character names is tres difficult. It's so hard finding that "perfect" name for each character. Sometimes, I'd spend days poring over Baby Names websites, fill up sheets after sheets of papers with potential names, and walk away empty-handed. Often times, I'd just randomly choose one among those I've selected, and sometimes, they stick. If not, they'll often pop up later in the middle of the draft. :]

    Good luck with naming your characters!

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  10. Names are tricky for me, too. Sometimes if it's not clicking, I'll stick a name in, knowing it is going to be changed, just so I can start writing. But it feels totally wrong when you don't have the name right. As I started my current WiP, I felt like the characters were telling me their story... but laughing at me because they wouldn't reveal their names! :)

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  11. I love the book called the Baby Name Survey Book. It gives you the old meaning of names and then gives you modern day opinions of what people with that name are like. My 14 year old swipes it quite often....it's fun to read. :)

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  12. The names are so tricky! I have honestly changed names mid-writing. Find and replace is grand...and also scary!

    Sometimes I name them after friends or people I know, sometimes I ponder various names for a while or search the internet. Sometimes the name comes first (Harold Van Brisbane...LOL) and the story follows. Sometimes I'm most of the way into the story when I get a feel for a fitting name. For me, I guess what I'm trying to say is - it's never the same. LOL. Always something different. What works for one story won't work for another.

    I'm loving reading about everyone's methods!

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  13. Blugh, names! My nemeses! I can't start a new story unless I have the names perfect. It drives me nuts, and I'm uber-picky. I usually scour the baby names sites and look at translations and think and think and think until I come up with something. And often I'll use the same name in multiple WIPs...just going through phases, I guess...

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  14. I'm with Amber...love it. A name says so much. I often try to match the names of my characters with their personalities.

    ~ Wendy

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  15. Their full names and nicknames come easily to me...but coming up with a book title?
    Torture!
    I can never come up with something I'm happy with. It's painful, really.

    Great blog! (my first time here...from Dangerous with a pen)
    ~Lola

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  16. OMG I HATE naming. Characters, places, organizations, ANYTHING. It is the hardest part of writing, for me, because names do mean something in a novel, and they all should make sense (as far as background and ethnicity and etc etc etc), and for characters I prefer names that are a little different but not so much that they make people stop and think 'that is a dumb name; you're trying too hard'. And don't even get me started on last names!

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  17. normally i'm able to just pull something off the top of my head. If i'm having troubles i'll ask my siblings.
    If that still doesn't work, i turn to the New Age Baby Name Book. It has yet to fail me.

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  18. Naming is really easy for me. The characters kind of just come to me, tell me their names, and off we go. In my first novel, it was pointed out to me that I had three characters starting with R and it got confusing. Whoops. So that will be changed.

    Then I realized that in Novel #2, I have three characters starting with a K sound. Double whoops.

    I hope the names are revealed to you, soon!

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  19. This is why I love fantasy novels. I get to make up my own names! (Nothing to weird or unpronounceable, I promise!) Good luck! I actually think the naming is the fun part!

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  20. Easy. I actually named a couple characters after real people. I like names. I've used the phone book and baby name books, too.

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  21. I usually rifle through my memory for people who remind me of my character. If that doesn't work, I turn to the baby name books. :-)

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  22. Torture. Simply put... yeah, torture.

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  23. lol. I love the phone book idea! I'm glad to see I'm not alone in the stress of name-picking, and lucky those of you who have no problem with it!!

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  24. I love to name characters. That's one of the fun things about writing--you can use the names your husband refused to let you name your children. Actually, my characters usually have their names for a reason, so if someone tells me a name needs to change, it feels so wrong. One time, I changed a character's name and my mental picture of her immediately changed. She lost about twenty pounds and her hair went about ten shades lighter.

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