Character names

What’s in a name?  Your character’s identity, that’s what.  Each time a writer sits down to create a new story, they’re faced with the name game.  Should they go cool and trendy, or a little on the fugly side?

There are some names that just seem a bit overused and trite.  I don’t know how many books I’ve read with ‘Destiny’ as the romantic heroine or ‘Justice’ as the super cop.  That’s fine, but it might be more unexpected if  Justice turned out to be a jewel thief  or bank robber, or maybe Martha Edith as a the next sexpot starlet.

Today I’ve been thinking about some of the more oddball character names that belong to unforgettable figures.  Ignatius and Ozena were in a couple of really good new releases I’ve read recently, monikers you don’t hear that often, but which will now forever call their characters to my mind.  And if I said Calpurnia, I bet you’d instantly know which Harper Lee classic she’s from.  To Kill a Mockingbird is full of more  unique names, like Scout, Atticus, Jem, and Boo.

I’m going to keep this in mind the next time I try to find the right name.  Am I the only one who opens the Encyclopedia of Baby Names or the phone book, closes my eyes and stabs a random name, then says ‘Nah’ when I find something like Elmer or Eugene under my fingertips?

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15 comments on “Character names

  1. For the most part, I hate choosing names. I make my husband do that every time I need a new character. However, I am really in love with my newest character Blondie Brilliance. It’s almost comic bookish.

    ann

  2. bisiadjapon says:

    That’s a great post, Tina, something to bear in mind!

    Bisi

  3. Hi tina,
    I found this blog interesting because when I choose a character’s name it usually pops into my head without much trouble. I do agree some authors choose strange names for their people, but then they have a mmore difficult task of having them live up to their names!

    Diana

  4. I always wonder how other writers come up with character names. For the my main characters I get a letter in my head and then go to a baby name site. After that one just gets stuck in my head. Minor or secondary characters just seem to name themselves as I go along. But I have noticed that the names I pick for my lead females all end with an e sound (Janie, Dani, Phoebe, Chloe, Lily) Maybe I need to break the mold on the next female character I name!!

  5. Joy says:

    The character’s name comes to me before I start writing. If I change my mind and come up with something else, I get out my trusty copy of Everyman’s Dictionary of First Names and get busy finding names/meanings to fit my book.

  6. I have a baby name book. 🙂

    Best all-time character name? Scarlett O’Hara. She was almost Pansy O’Hara. Can you imagine? 😛

    Corra

    from the desk of a writer

    • Corra,
      I have a baby name book by the computer for naming, too. 🙂 I use “100,000+ Baby Names” by Bruce Lansky.

      I’m a ‘Gone With the Wind’ fan too, and cringe to think about Rhett and ‘Pansy’! That would be cute for a little old lady or a bulldog, but not our Scarlett! 🙂

  7. kimberlyloomis says:

    I *knew* I kept those books of baby names around for some reason! Admittedly my difficulty seems to lie in last names. For that I think of ancestry then google.

    Great post! Could I link your blog on my site, btw? I’m digging your blog. 🙂

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