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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Say, what's your name?

Parents can agonize for months over what to name their child. Picking a name for a new pet can be stressful too, especially when fighting kids are involved. Selecting names for characters in your book is not much different. A friend of mine said she can’t even start a book until she has all the names down pat. Many scour baby name books or sites, looking for the “perfect” moniker. Me, I take a less scientific approach. I just let the name come to me. And no, I don’t sit there for days waiting to see it written on a coffee mug or flashed across the six o’clock news.
In Shrinking Violet, I actually thought of my main character’s radio name first—Sweet T. That came about because she is sweet and innocent. By doing this, I had easily narrowed down the first letter of her name to a T. I wanted her to have a nickname, Tere, that she goes by and a more formal name that only her mother calls her—Teresa. Much like picking a name for a baby, you actually have to sometimes see your character first before you settle on a name. Tere’s love interest is Gavin and it was not until I visualized him sitting next to her in English class that his name came to be.
I am often tempted to name the “villains” in my books after people that were jerks during my school years. But then I would have to live with their names forever. So actually none of my books so far have characters that are fashioned after people that I know in real life. That’s probably a good thing too!
Do you have any rituals or rules for picking names for characters, children, pets or otherwise?


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

I don't think I have a real method to picking names. Some character names are names I've loved forever (like Emily from IWBYJR), some are names of people I admired (not really close friends, but just like there was this super cool girl in Madison I knew named Kara so I named my MC in Ballads after her), and some just come to me like the name of the the MC in the book I'm working on right now. That book is based around a Greek myth so I'm looking at names that have mythical meaning and that has been lots of fun.

Jenny O'Connell said...

Totally hear you on the name thing, until a character has the right name I have a tough time writing about them.

Jan Blazanin said...

I've used several methods for naming characters: baby books, web sites, former students--wonderful and awful, ancestors, friends, and random strangers. The name I put the most thought into was Oribella Bettencourt, the MC in FAIREST OF THEM ALL. Oribella means "beautiful golden child," and the title Jen came up with fits the name perfectly.