Do you spend as much time in naming your fictional character as you did naming your child? Do you think writers spend any time naming their characters?
Naming is an important element to any story. The right name should roll easily off the mind’s tongue. It should fit the image you have of your character…or not fit should that be the feel you require. Names come with set images and personalities, too. Think of the following names and their first impression:
Now, to clarify, I pulled these names off the top of my head without any thought given to people I know, don’t know, may have met but have forgotten. Basically, for this writing, I went down the alphabet, at random starts, and it was the first name in my head with that letter.
Naming my own character in MIDNIGHT FIND was something else. First pick was “Jackie” and then I became friends with, Jackie. It felt strange having a real Jackie, and a fictional “Jackie.” Thus, the change to “Tina.” Why “Tina”? I don’t know for sure. Her name did a pop into my mind. Analyzing it now, maybe it’s because my “Tina” doesn’t fit my first impression of a “Tina.” Think “Gilligan’s Island.”
However, if I think my favourite singer, Tina Turner…someone I wasn’t actively thinking about at the time…the name is a perfect fit.
I have another story where my female character is, “Sam.” This was before my nephew of same name was born. Somehow, I don’t think…as he grows up…he would appreciate a fictional female character, written by his aunt, with his name. Or maybe it’s just me.
I like my characters to have names which are different than those I know. Think of it this way…a name without context. One free of relationship luggage, whether good luggage or not. There’s a different topic…writing those we know within our stories, but they don’t know it…for another day.
I have heard of different methods writers have used to find names. The most obvious one is using baby name books. You can match your character’s traits to the name’s meaning. Easily match a name to a character’s cultural background.
I’ve heard of some writers using the phonebook for last names. Most characters need a last name…as I realize my “Tina” doesn’t have one.
There is also the newspaper orbits. Maybe a tad creepy, but given the ages of those who have passed away, it’s an avenue to find a name to match a time period.
Which is another point to naming…time periods. What is popular now, may not have been even thought of in my grandmother’s time. My mom was named Barbara Ann before The Beach Boys’ song. It was just my luck KISS’ song “Christine Sixteen” came out right around the time I was or was nearing sixteen. And you don’t have to guess too hard to conclude my dad, James, received quite a few “Home, James” when we were out and about.
Now for one last crazy piece of information, I do understand others have used this method; however, the first time I heard about it was watching a late night interview with a supposedly famous adult film star. (another topic for another day…crazy, strange, useful information which clutters a writer’s mind) He indicated to find your “porn” name, use your middle name and the street you first lived on. Yeah, doesn’t work for me…my middle name is someone I was named after.
Naming is essential to your fictional character. So, what’s up with your name.