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Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's All in the Name

Liz Fielding recently posted how difficult it can be to find a suitable name for characters.

I have a huge headache when finding names for my characters. My current heroine started out as 'Chloe'. I've always loved this name, and I thought it was original in that I do not personally know anybody with this name. However, when dd heard me reading part of the mss aloud (as I'm prone to do from time to time to check its readability), she went pale and pleaded with me to change the heroine's name.

I'd completely forgotten the bad experiences my dd had at the hands of a person with the same name. As Liz points out in her post, names can conjure up certain connotations in the reader, and these may not always be good. On this occasion I allowed my dd to dictate that I needed to find another name for my heroine - in fact she helped me choose one. 'Chloe' has now become 'Kate'.

For this manuscript, Kate does suit the character, but I still can't help feeling that at some point in the future 'Chloe' has a story to tell. I'm even hoping that should my dd ever read the story, it will finally eradicate her not-so-nice memories and replace them with the characteristics that I'm sure the majority of 'Chloes' have.

As for finding names for my heroes, that is even more of a nightmare!

How do you generate names for your characters, and does the naming process come easier to you than it does to me?

3 comments:

Karen Erickson said...

Naming characters are hard. I don't want to do something too radical or hard to pronounce. And the name has to fit the character. I'm not one to change them midway through, though I had to change names for my Mod X attempt.

It IS a struggle, I have to agree.

Stacy Dawn said...

The names usually come in the thinking stage. Only Rarely have I ever had to change them during the writing process. Yes, a lot of who I know etc determines which names will NEVER get used but when the right one comes, it just fits the person.

Sharon J said...

I don't have a formula for generating character names, I just go through my baby naming book, looking for something that sounds right whilst keeping my vision of the character in my mind.

What I do do (don't you hate it when the same words stand together like that?) is create the characters first in my outline so that I've got a general idea of who they are, what they do etc, before I look for a name. It doesn't always work, though. As you may remember, Leo was once Dan. I liked him as Dan but he didn't. He just wouldn't play ball with that name but once I changed it, he rolled along smoothly.

I think, if you use the name of somebody you know, you'll inevitably end up putting too many parts of their personality into your character and that's something I try to avoid. I'd much rather mix different traits from different people and create somebody unique.

When it comes to surnames, I used the telephone directory to make a file of names that I either like the sound of or are right for certain types of characters. Everything from Smith and Jones to Montague and Chalmondely is in there! I won't use 90% of the names, but at least I have plenty to choose from.