For Authors: How do you pick names for your characters?For Authors:How do you pick names for your characters? Suzanne #questionnaire
I have wondered that too!
I often find it difficult to concentrate on a book where the lead characters have very bizarrely spelt first names….does anyone else have this problem?
@Julie, Yes! If I can’t pronounce it easily or it sounds strange in my head, I pass on the book.
@Mandy I mean, why type Aylliviah instead of Olivia every time? ??
Yes!!! I thought it was just me!
@Julie my son’s ex wife had twins after they divorced named them….Auntesi (Honesty) and Paytience…ugh!
@Julie – the main problem I have with names is, for example, meeting four primary characters in the first chapter. Let’s say four women. And their names are Cherie, Cheryl, Chastity, and Florence. Ask me how much I mix up those first three names and can’t remember who said or did what.
If I can’t pronounce it, I just go with what I think it is. I don’t want to pass up a good book just because of a name. But yes I wish the names were a bit easier.
@Julie no kidding, lol! When my son had his first son with her, she tells me on the phone they will name him Jason…cool! Normal, comes on Walmart pencils and bike nameplates! Nope, she spelled it Jaysen! My son’s second son, Kayden, Lord have mercy! Third son, Daniel…yeah!???
No, but I hate silly names. I read one book where the character named their son something so incredibly annoying and then a paragraph was spent justifying the name, because obviously the author knew the name was stupid and was trying to justify it to readers. It was just one problem with that book, one of many.
I excruciated over naming my children and feel no different when naming the characters in my books. Both are so permanent! For my historical novel, I calculated a character’s birth year and consulted lists of the most popular baby names for that year, easily found on the internet. I went far enough down the lists to find names that were interesting but not bizarre, and authentic to the period. Of course, there will always be the occasional character whose bizarre name is a necessary element of the story. I also find interesting names while wandering through cemeteries. And, it was common in the 19th century to give babies their mother’s maiden name as a first name. Hence we have an ancestor named Bushrod Doggett.
Thanks so much for your answer! Interesting!
My pleasure, from one Ellen to another (speaking of names). If you ever read my novel, The River by Starlight, you may chuckle over the characters’ names that seem so ordinary but were debated into anemia in my head before they made it to the page. 🙂
There can be so much characterization in a name. I think about their cultural background. Like Ellen Notbohm, I take their age and the era in which the story is set into account. And often the name’s meaning, and how it sounds. All of those factors feed into their names. So that when you hear a name like Ronnie Sue Corbett you can tell she’s a country girl. I use traditional spellings instead changing spellings to be cute. Sometimes those traditional spellings though don’t come from English. If that’s the case I will often write in an explanation of how to pronounce a name.
I picked the name Grenadine Scotch Wild for my character in What I Remember Most and then I knew exactly who she was, and who her parents here. Grenadine, as in Shirley Temple drink grenadine, Scotch for well, Scotch, and Wild. I often look at baby names for idea online. In every book I have a ton of characters, ones that come in and out for one scene, so I am constantly on that baby name list. I don’t name any character, first AND last, after people I know, EVER, because that’s a lovely way to get sued. I have used my parents and grandparents and ancestors first and last names, in different ways. But again, I haven’t used their full names.
@Cathy, that was a great book. Some of your characters are quirky. I love that you pick those names.
I recently read a translation of a book set in Iceland. The author put a page at the beginning of the book with pronunciations of each characters name. What a help. I know I still mispronounced them as I read but it did help to have them handy.
At charity auctions, I offer the right to name minor characters in my books to the highest bidder. Have some great names to work with and readers invested in the story 🙂
@Ashley wow….very interesting.
I wish they would do that in all books Cheryl.
I do a lot of my writing in Starbucks. When I’m really stuck on a name for a character I listen to the names called out by the baristas for various drink orders. If I hear one I like I’ll add it to my list of potential character names!
I let them tell me who they are as I write my story, if that makes sense. I feel my characters are much more real when I learn about them as I go and that can include their names or nickname.
I usually select names that have secondary meanings, ie, connect to one of the story’s themes (Iris = rainbow), or say something about the character that isn’t immediately obvious. I also use different first letters for all the main characters to make it easier for readers–and also so I can use a single letter in my notes!
@Sonja love that idea.