I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Naming the Characters in a Story


Writers give a lot of thought when they name the characters in their story. They don’t simply choose a favorite name of one of their children or friends.

Names can reflect age, personality traits, family background, relationships, and even genre.

For Example, Mercy Stone Goodwill might suggest Anglo-Saxon, a woman of stern character, or a fundamentalist; John Adams Carrington, a family of proud heritage; Sunshine Smith, a hippy heritage.

We also consider generation appropriate names. A World War II story could have names such as Linda or Janet, but not so likely a modern name such as Danica or Chloe. Stories set in the 1800’s would be might have Catherine or Elizabeth rather than Brooke or Tracie. The government social security web site can even let you search for the top baby names of each year.

For Fantasy or Science Fiction, you can get clever with names, but remember to choose names easy to read. I’d go for Klav rather than Klastriecienic. (Okay, I totally make that last one up.)

Choosing similar names can also confuse the reader: Tim, Jim, and Kim.

I also like to give nicknames to my characters. A boss in the story my call my character Daniel, while his mom says Danny, and friends say Dan.

Or call an elderly house-keeper, Betty. A friend for many years affectionately calls her “Lady B”; a quirky man may call his wife “Marion” or sweetheart” when addressing her but “Lady Marion” when talking to friends.

Nicknames can even add conflict to the story. How about a young lady named Candice but some friends shorten it to Candi? That leads to someone calling her Candy Cane or Skittles. Maybe she had so much of this during her high school years that it’s a real sore point. The next time someone innocently tries it, she blows!

A number of web sites help me when I think of names.
       Behindthename.com
       Last-names.net
       Babynames.com
Or visit http://www.behindthename.com/random/  (have fun with this one!)

What considerations do you make when naming characters? And what’s you favorite name for a child today…or tell me why you chose the name for your pet!

13 comments:

  1. Great tips, Teri. In my book, I think I changed every name in it at least once because somehow the character's name doesn't fit. lol

    Will bookmark those websites, too.

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    1. I know what you mean, Pat. Sometimes we have to ponder for a while until inspiration hits!

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  2. I use babynames.com but I've never used the other two!

    My daughter named our pet, when she was two, after a friend at daycare who just had a baby sister. Her name is Sarah. lol I still crack up over that.

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    1. That is funny, Jessica! My mother gave her dog a Biblical name: Titus! At first I wondered about the name, but now it fits and he's as beloved as the Titus in the Bible.

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  3. Teri, thanks for these great websites! So glad I stopped by today.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know, Jackie. I hope they will help.

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  4. I have 3 boys and a husband at home. I use one name "JohnChrisJordanZach!" Somebody always answers.
    My hero's name is a Native American name, and oh my word, do NOT mess up a name that is not of one's own culture. Get help, trust me.

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    1. Wise advice, Jennifer. And I've often call my children TomDanSar trying to hit the right one!

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  5. I'm not always a good one to ask about naming characters because I rarely have a cool story or anything. A name always just seems to come to my head and boom, that's my character. :)

    Silly pet name story: When I was a kid we bought a puppy from one of my dad's coworkers. The coworker's daughter had already named the puppy so we felt like we had to keep it. The name: Chubby. Okay, that's not that funny of a story...it's just the name that's funny...and, well, the fact that Chubby's eyeball fell out twice. No joke. But that's a story for another day... :)

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    1. Now you've whet our appetite, Melissa!

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  6. I love naming characters. I use babynames.com and choose names that fit the characters' personalities.

    We don't have pets anymore, but when we had our yellow Lab, her name was Samantha Jane. I don't know why I chose it...it just seemed to fit her.

    Our boys have part of my husband's name in theirs. Our oldest has my husband's first name for his middle name, and our youngest has his dad's middle name for his middle name. Using family names is an honor, in my opinion.

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    1. Agreed, Lisa! It would be fun to use the idea of middle names of a parent or grandparent as a source of conflict in a story...maybe the character is expected to live up to that person, but they want to be their own person and chafe when anyone expects them to be just like so and so.

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  7. Thanks for the fun post, Teri!

    I love choosing names for my characters. It's a fun perk that comes with writing fiction. Like Melissa, when I dream up a character, the name usually comes to me then. But I use a baby name book too. It's the one I've had for two decades and has almost fallen apart from use between my writer-daughter and me.

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