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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What's In A Name?

   A major challenge all fiction writers encounter is that of naming our characters. Choosing the right name for each individual is important, even vital. A name is the first indication of who your character is. A name gives hints to his/her personality, background, attitudes, etc. For instance, readers would expect a character named Tootsie to be far different from one named Carstairs.

   One baby-naming book famously advised that if you want your son or daughter to go into law enforcement, for heaven's sake don't name him or her Rob or Robyn Banks! I realize that I may be a bit more aware of the impact of a name. When I was a kid, some of my classmates were saddled with unfortunate names. There was a girl named Jessie James and boys who were named Peter Abbot and Paul Lockwood. ( If you don't get it, say those last two aloud, fast! )

So where do I look for appropriate names for my characters? Sometimes a suitable name just pops into my head; at other times I search through one of the above-mentioned baby name books. Believe it or not, I've also searched old cemeteries looking for unique or outdated names. I once came across a man named Dearbun Blackwell who died in the 1700s, and a woman named Sadilla. ( No, I haven't used either of those names, so feel free! )

Other common resources are phone books, TV and movie credits, history books, and magazines such as The National Geographic. I would suggest Googling a name before using it to make sure you don't inadvertently use the name of a living individual who might object to the hijacking of his/her name!

To  give you a concrete example of how I name my characters, in my current WIP I have a boy named Hiro Orion Watenabe. Yikes, that's a mouthful! It gives the impression of a rather dull, stodgy character. But I quickly bestow the nickname "Howie" upon him, which is more in line with his true personality: an informal, light-hearted goofball!

So don't be afraid to have fun naming your characters. Be thoughtful; be playful. After all, they are your "babies!"

Keep reading and keep on writing!