Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I’ve always been a little obsessed with names. Perhaps because I own one that is rather unique. Growing up, all I wanted was to blend in with the Jennies, Lizes, and Heathers in my class. Not be told by the boy I liked that when he first heard my name he pictured an 80-year-old Swedish woman!

I’m okay with my name now. Really. I’m even glad it’s somewhat ‘different.’ But names do play a role in how we perceive and relate to people and things. For instance, I’ve always named my cars. I’ve owned cars named Turtle, Willow, Stallion and currently, Homer (it’s an Odyssey).

In books, names give important clues to a character’s... well, character. It doesn’t quite fit to have a villain named “Sunny” or a football hero named “Poindexter,” does it? It is great fun, though, when authors challenge our notions by spinning characters that are the exact opposite of what their name implies.

What names evoke strong emotions in you as a reader? How do you perceive a Preston or a Boomer, an Emma or a Chastity? What about common names like Joe or Nick or Jane? And how does playing with the spelling of a name alter its effect (Jo, Nic, Jayne)? How do you feel about using boys’ names for girls (Blake, Riley, Charlie, Mason)? Or last names for first names (Wyler, Bennett, Kennedy)?

I’ve recently changed two character names in my WIP and even though I think their new names better fit their personalities, it’s been a difficult transition for me. Like I’m losing someone I knew so well. If you’re a writer, what is your process for naming your characters? Do you pick one and stick with it, or do you try out several while you’re writing until you find the one that “fits”?

In short, what’s in a name… to you?



sonje said...

I wrote a post about names a little while ago, mostly about how sick I am of naming characters. I'm working on a series of four books, and my main character meets a lot of people all the time. I'm halfway through book #3, and I've now named 94 characters. Let me tell you, the thrill is gone LOL.

My process at this point is to look at my character list (a must have, I'm sure you can understand), pick an underused first letter (doesn't really exist at this point, but whatever LOL), then get out my baby name book and find a name that begins with that letter. If I need a last name, I go to a website I found that has 1000s of last names listed by popularity.

Most of the characters I'm naming now are minor characters, and I don't care that much what their names are. I kind of try to stick with "normal" names because I don't want their names to draw too much attention.

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

I have the hardest time naming my characters! I've changed the name of my MC's love interest three times so far (which isn't much -- I've done worse to her). I go through tons of lists before I find ones that sound right. Sometimes it's the meaning I'm looking for. Naming characters is a difficult thing and I try not to judge too harshly when I hate a character's name in a book I'm reading.

Mary @ Book Swarm

Stephanie Mooney said...

I usually associate a name with the strongest or most recent experience I've with someone by that name.

An 80-year-old Swedish woman??? LOL! I've always liked the name Ingrid, more so now because I always think of you when a hear it. :)

There's really no rhyme or reason to how I name characters. I know the sound I'm looking for, and when I've found the right name, I just know in my gut.

Sarah said...

I pick a name that matches the cultural/geographical background of the person, and then I often choose names for their meanings, but not always. I think it's kind of fun to name characters--and difficult when I have to change a name after I've grown attached (but sometimes it's necessary).

Sarah Wedgbrow said...

I love nicknames so when authors use not only a cool name, but a quirky version of that name, I'm sold. Strangely, I don't do this with my writing, but I'm working on it. I honestly just pick the first name that pops into my head and then I might amend it later. xx

Joelle said...

Usually the character names pop put at from something I see, hear, taste (no kidding) there are times when I'm eating dinner and a name jumps out at me. Certain scents will trigger names for me too. It's the normal everyday things that inspire a character name.

Ann Summerville said...

I have a fascination with names too. My friend names her cars.

kaye (paper reader) said...

Sometime late last year is when I had a dream that's become the basis of the story that I'm slooowly working on. In order to get it out as fast as possible (so as to remember all of the details) I took my notes via audio recordings. And the names for the characters just popped out as I was speaking. I have no idea where they came from but once I spoke them and continued to take the notes I realised the names fit who I was describing.

I'm not sure if they'll change as things are still rather preliminary but currently I'm happy with them.

That said, I've always been interested in names and I love making lists of them and researching their origins. For a long time I disliked my own name but I've made amends with it and now think my mum did a good job. ;)

Kristan said...

80-year-old Swedish woman, hah!

I've always loved my different name (no matter how it gets misspelled) but maybe that's partially b/c I always had a lot of nicknames too. A lot of different mes I could be.

I admit, sometimes I have a hard time reading a book that stars a character with a name I strongly associate to someone in my real life. (Like Ingrid in Hold Still! :P) And I get really sick of "cool sounding" trendy names. But I love when authors turn my expectations on their head (like having a football hero named Poindexter, to use your example).

As a writer, I usually just go with my gut on names. For main characters I feel like it usually comes easy. It's the side characters where I sometimes have to look through baby name websites or phone books in order to find the name that feels right.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

When I was younger I desperately wanted a different name. However I wanted a different name because mine was so popular. At one point I think there were 3 or 4 Ashley's in my grade. It annoyed me to no end to always have to be known as "Ashley M". I don't mind my name so much now, but it's still not my favourite. The only bonus is being able to find stuff in stores with my name on it. My Mom (Wilma) and best friend (Mistee) are very jealous of that fact.

I haven't written anything in a long time, but I was big into it in high school and university. Naming characters was fun, but definitely hard. I like more unusual names like Aubrey, but I also seem to like more common names but spelled differently (Katey, Meggin, Alisha, Christie).

We Heart YA said...

94, wow! Yeah, we can imagine that the novelty would wear off.

"I try not to judge too harshly when I hate a character's name in a book I'm reading."

Us too!

Guts are good. :P

Changing 'em is always weird at first. I'm trying out a lot of new names for some important side characters. My poor crit partners are always wondering who these "new" people are!

Scents?! How interesting. We've not heard that one before.

It's fun to do!

Sometimes that's the best way. (For what it's worth, we like your name too!)

Haha, seriously, I can NEVER find my name in stores! (Neither can Kristan.) We like the unique spellings too.

Lauren M said...

Haha, I love that you named your Odyssey Homer! Brilliant!
I definitely agree--certain names have certain connotations to people. For example...the name Melvin definitely makes me think of a nerdy guy. More common names don't really have a connotation to me, interestingly enough. Same with really exotic names. *shrug*

Margie Gelbwasser said...

I've always had issues with my name too. My full name is Margaret and I had NO nickname until I shortened it in college. So an 8 year old named Margaret? Blech. Anyway...I get what you mean about character names. When I write, if the character's name doesn't quite do it for me, it stalls my whole project. Great post!

We Heart YA said...

Did you ever watch the American version of Sailor Moon? There was a SUPER nerdy character named Melvin. So funny!

Nicknames are great. They can really transform a person. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

about us

Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

We Heart YA's favorite books »

ya diversity book club

© 2011 All words & images above are the creation/property of We Heart YA unless otherwise credited. Powered by Blogger.

have a heart

We Heart YA