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Monday, October 28, 2013

What’s in a name? Naming your book and characters is like naming your child (PART 1)

I love the feeling of excitement I get when an idea for a story first pops into my head. It could begin with a word, a place, an emotion, or even a colour. But for me it more often than not starts with a person. Sometimes I know a lot about this particular person, and sometimes I don’t, and that’s where the fun starts. When I can visualise one person, I start to see what they are like when they meet other people, and then what those people are like, and before I know it I have a cast of characters jumping around in my head all vying for my attention.

Today I want to talk about names.

PART 1: Characters

I find naming my characters really fun, but there are a few basic things I take into consideration before making my choices.

Names shape personalities: certain names say certain things. I try to choose names that fit who I want my character to be. I love the name Oliver, but I would never use it for a bad-boy character. Maybe a kind hearted vigilante like Oliver Queen, but not someone who is really bad-ass evil.

Meanings: I always look up the meaning of each name and make sure it suits the personality I’ve imagined my character to have. For example, one of the meanings of Oliver is affectionate. See what I mean about the bad-boy thing?

It's not just one name: don’t forget about middle and last names, they are just as important. 

Pronunciation: there are so many great names, but some of them can be a little hard to pronounce if we’ve never heard them spoken before. I like to make sure my names can be pronounced easily, and if not I think a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book is a good idea.

First isn't always best: sometimes my first choice for a name isn't quite right, and I don't discover it until I'm half way through the first draft. But that's what first drafts are all about, for a pantser like me anyway. I'm not scared to change a character's name if it isn't working.

Make a list: I have a notebook for names. Actually, I have a notebook for just about everything. Anyway, writing down a name I like when I hear it or see it, and making notes about that name really helps me when I come to naming my characters. There's only so much I can hold in my head at any one time. All the excess goes into notebooks.

Be unique: there are quite a few names that are overused in my opinion. I like to try and choose names that haven't been used often because I think it makes them more memorable.

Finding the perfect name for my characters is one of the best parts about writing a story. They become real people to me, and I find if I get the names right, the story comes more easily.

PART 2: Book Titles coming Friday November 1st, so stay tuned...

K x

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