Saturday, April 7, 2007

Character names

Choosing names for characters can be a fun, but stressful process. I've often changed a character name halfway through a manuscript because I no longer liked the name or I thought the name didn't fit my character. Usually, unless I already have a specific name in mind I'll visit a baby name Website and find a name for a certain personality or from a specific origin.

Most of the time, I try not to choose names of people I actually know. If I use names of people I know, I seem to put that person's personality into my character even when I don't mean to do it.

What about you? How do you choose character names? Do you ever sneak names of family and friends into your books? (I put my brother's name (with different spelling) in my YA manuscript!) :)

By the way, any YA authors with hopes of turning the novel into a TV show or movie for Disney, I highly advise you get Friday, April 6's edition of The USA Today. It has a great article on teen and tween Disney stars and what it takes for Disney to make a movie or TV series. For example, ever notice that HSM doesn't have love songs? Or that Disney has 4 specific themes in most movies or TV shows? Those themes: Believe in yourself, express yourself, follow your dreams, celebrate your family. I don't know about you, but I could certainly write with those guidelines in mind for the hope of pleasing Disney.


Erica Ridley said...

Like you, I usually haunt the baby name web sites for names. I have also been known to flip through phone books for good last names. I try to make sure I don't use the same first letter twice if I can help it. (Reading books with Nina and Nancy and Mike and Mark can get confusing to the reader.)

After all that work, I still end up changing almost everyone's name at least once during the course of the story, LOL.

Miri said...

I generally hit This works especially well when I'm writing in a historical or made-up setting. (For instance, this time around, all my names are Italian, slightly modified Italian, or have enough syllables to pass for Italian.)

I try not to change character names because I a) keep trying to write the old name or b) keep changing it again and again.

I'm with Erica on the first letter thing. In my current project I have a Lisetta and Letizia and it's pretty much driving me up the wall, but the characters are absolutely refusing to shift names.

If I'm writing in a more realistic/current setting, then yes, it's the baby name sites. Those names usually come to me faster, though. I don't have any qualms about ganking names from people I know, mostly because the people I gank will never read it anyway. I'm careful that way.

Another writer I know sets up his story, outlines it, has everything ready to go...and then has a naming party. Main Character becomes Mark. Female Antagonist becomes Lizibetta. MC's Kid-Sister's Best Friend becomes Alicia. And so on. And they tend to keep those names throughout the process, from the sound of it.

Anonymous said...

Lessee, what are the main names in my WIP ... Gina, Andrew, Sam, Heather, Candace, Hayes ... aw, man ... I'm too tired to go through it all. Good thing, too. I do enough to make people run away screaming already. ;)

I hunt through baby name books and name websites. For some reason or another, I usually have the first letter of their name in mind, if nothing else.

In my first novel, I went through the entire thing with a character named Emma Watson and didn't notice until the end. After that, I couldn't look at her without thinking, "HERMIONE!"

Anonymous said...

I adore names in general. I am someone who keeps a list of favourite names, for when she has children one day, lol. So creating characters is just as fun. I don't write a lot of fiction these days, but coming up with character names is my favourite part of character building. Sometimes, partway into a story, a name I've chosen doesn't fit the character anymore. Though I probably wouldn't give my own children unusual names, I do like them for stories. Something memorable, you know.

Stephanie J said...

geeze...the naming of characters! I can never decide. I write half of my stuff with blank spaces for names and then I have to go back and catch everything. I guess it's the same as going back and having to change names you've already decided on!

Miri...i think I'll check out that site! sounds neat!

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