We’ve all had to do it. Every writer has to face the harrowing decision of what to name the person about whom you have been writing for an absurd amount of time.
Usually the main characters of a story that is particularly close to your heart and soul are easy to name. Laura and Thomas have been Laura and Thomas for ten years (although for nine of them he was just Tom). But there are others in that story who have altered close to five or six times throughout the course of the writing process.
For example, Laura’s brother. First his name was Lance. Then Lance Armstrong left his wife for Cheryl Crowe so my character’s name became Shawn. Then I hated that when someone made fun of it (for whatever reason I have since forgotten) and I named him Jonathan. But Lance was still pulling at the back of my mind so now Laura has two brothers, one named Lance and the other named Jonathan.
Thomas’s closest brother has been renamed a few times as well. First he was Craig, then he was Shawn. I then altered his name to Tim, but Tim and Tom sounded like little villages waifs from eighteenth century England and that would not do. A few years ago Tristan and Isolde came out in theaters and the brother became Tristan, but the two T’s for twins didn’t work for me.
Long story short, it’s a very important decision, even for minor characters. You can have created the greatest character of all time. but if you choose a silly name no one can take seriously (unless you have done this purposefully to make a point which is addressed in your story), your readers will take longer to warm up to the character. I know it’s wrong, but it’s true. People form opinions from the second they begin your tale. Those opinions could change, but who wants to leave a bad first impression?
Minor characters names are all well and good and must be taken completely seriously, but what if you select a horrid name for your protagonist? I blanch at the thought. Now let’s remember that a bad or good name has nothing to do with whether the name itself is commonly liked or disliked by the general populace – a good name has to fit your character. If your protagonist’s name doesn’t suit her … well my friend, you’ve got a problem.
Another example: With Damn Brits I toyed between two names for the hero for months. I struggled, I sweat, I cried (kidding!). Half the novel is written with the first name and the other half with the second choice (which I ultimately selected). Gabs will remember our freshman year antics where we would leave post-its on each other’s doors, most of them concerning writing. One in particular I stuck there when I was so frustrated, I decided to just let her make the choice for me. On a pink heart Valentine’s Day sticky note I wrote:
"Babykins, Julian or Todd? Please respond ASAP!!!!!!!!!!"
Within a few hours I had a yellow note saying:
And that’s how it went. And she was right. Julian fits the character better. It implies refined breeding (which he has) but also a bit of a rouge (which he is) and a dark history (not giving any details, sorry for the tease). Todd is a great name but it was too simple for Julian’s character. Also, Julian and Rosella sounded like a better pair than Rosella and Todd.
All things must be considered when it comes to names for any character, great or small. That particular character’s personality, the other characters, the physical appearances, the setting. You can’t name a seventeenth century British lord Muhammad (extreme example I know, bear with me). Let yourself go through the 800 changes. Ask your friends. Do what you must until you find the perfect fit. I know it’s a pain. Just do it anyway. You won’t like your story if your names are wrong for it.
But that’s just my process. Everyone is different. So now I ask you:How do you choose your characters names? Do you change them often? Do they just come to you? Do you Google popular baby names?
As you may or may not have noticed, there are a few alterations to the blog. All my updates relating to the novels and stories on which I am working are now present on the sidebar beneath a relevant picture describing them. Rather than posting my goals (which I haven’t recently been reaching anyway, so I just look silly telling you about how I didn’t make it) my progress for all creative projects will now be neatly stored on the sidebar.
Rowenna has graciously given me the Versatile Blogger and the One Lovely Blog Awards 🙂 Thank you, thank you!
I already posted seven things about myself in a recent post, and I don’t have time to do it again, however I will tag:
- Slightly Ignorant (although she really isn’t at all and writes very well!)
Congratulations all! Know you never fail to make me smile 🙂