Friday, December 4, 2009

Naming Characters

Mother and child in bassinet at window - Paul Sieffert- 1874 - 1957 There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens at the pool or the playground.

One child calls, “Mom!” and about ten women swing around.

Not a good thing to have in our books, though. It’s really distracting when I’m reading a book and wonder who the character is because there’s a Sam and a Sid. And sometimes the author doesn’t give little helpful hints to help me know which character he’s referring to (“Sam the accountant. Sid, who works at the barbershop.) I try not to have names starting with the same letter in my books.

I also try to find appropriate names for my characters. Right or wrong, there’s definitely baggage that comes along with certain names. If I were going to write a beauty queen, I probably wouldn’t choose the name ‘Gertrude’ unless I was trying to be funny. I wouldn’t name my intellectual Biff…again, unless I was trying to make a point. It would be too much work to try to undo the readers’ quick leap to stereotype.

Every book I seem to change a character name at least once. After eight chapters, they may not be the same person I thought they were in chapter two. By chapter eighteen, they might have changed again.

The last book I submitted needed a character name change in the 11th hour—the name was already taken by a real person…an actual author at another publishing house.

I’ve had fun playing around with names with my Myrtle Clover series. Some characters’ names have literary or historical references.

Name generators are also useful. The one I usually use is Seventh Sanctum.

Some names just fit particular characters beautifully. My favorite is Voldemort. Have you got any favorite character names? How does your character naming process work?