Tag Archives: fictional characters

Authors Answer 77 – Naming Characters

Names are important, especially in fiction. They need to be memorable. They need to stand out. They shouldn’t be boring or forgettable. But it’s not the easiest thing to do. Some names are overused, some names sound cheesy. What’s the best way to choose a name?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 77 – How do you choose character names?

Paul B. Spence

For main characters, they are just there when I create the concept. For others, I glance through name books and pick combinations that I like. Sometimes I work the name of an author from my bookshelf into secondary characters’ names.

Gregory S. Close

A few names come unbidden through the ether and pop into my brain.  Other names have been carefully sourced and researched based on some imagined criteria I’ve come up with – based on Celtic or Native American roots etc.  Baby name websites can be handy, especially if they provide meanings and allow you to sort by derivation.

And… Some names come from stereo components.

Allen Tiffany

Mostly they just come to me. The main characters, anyway. I’ve been told I should pick names with subtle meaning and clever references, which I do for the secondary characters. But the MCs always just show up with their names already figured out. When I do think about names, I often conclude I think about it too much and make a hash out of it.

Linda G. Hill

I have the hardest time with character names! Once in a while they just come to me and I know beyond a doubt that I’ve plucked the character, name and all, from the universe. But most of the time I drive myself nuts with the decision.

D. T. Nova

I use a combination of the name’s meaning, its sound, and other connotations it may have from other uses.

I also sometimes use theme naming for characters associated with each other.

Jean Davis

I’m really exact about character names. I spend hours researching meanings until I find just the right one. And no, not really. Names either come to me in the moment or I mash keys until one happens. I’ve also been known to turn to someone and say, “Give me a name” and there it is.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

For me it actually depends on the individual stories. If I’m writing a drabble or a little flash fiction piece I’ll usually only use first names, and I’ll snatch those names at random from the long list of people I’ve met or worked with. I honestly won’t think about it too much; I’ll just pick the first name I think of that sounds okay.

With “Nowhere to Hide”, however, I was a lot pickier about my character names. Since it was my first horror novel, and I had every intention of it being published, I wanted to use the opportunity to pay homage to other horror names who have influenced me. My main character, for example, is Nancy King. “Nancy” is for the main character from the original “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, and “King” is for, of course, Mr Stephen King.

With “The Other World” it was a much sillier process that brought my characters their names. For the purposes of a later plot point I definitely wanted my main character’s name to be Victoria, but I didn’t want to be calling her that all the time so I nicknamed her “Tori”. Since the first letter of her name matched mine I chose her last name from my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Then, on a whim (since I’d already built her name, in a way, from my own) I named her love interest and best friend to match my husband and beset friend…thus Jacob was born from Jason and Kaima was born from Kelly. In retrospect it seems rather a childish way to name my characters, but I’ve grown into the names and love them now, so they’re here to stay.

Eric Wood

I ask my wife. Or I ask my friends. Or I’ll just grab a name that I like. There is usually very little thought to it.

H. Anthe Davis

Starting in middle school, I kept a list of interesting-sounding names that I either thought up randomly or found elsewhere, and would tweak them until they became something that fit a character.  As I built my story-world more, though, I started reverse-deriving some of the names to build the vocabulary in my fake language, and then branched out to defining naming-conventions for the various kingdoms and territories.  So these days, I check the naming conventions first, and then the language dictionary, and tack something together from those — but most of my long-running characters have names from before that age, so might stand out a bit from the rest of the pack, who knows.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I use a generator for most of my names, usually the Quick Character Namer on Seventh Sanctum. I don’t put too much stock in picking the “perfect” name for a character, but I do need to know what to call a character before I can continue. I don’t want a repeat of the placeholder name I mentioned in the last Authors Answer.

S. R. Carrillo

They often jump out at me. Back in the day, my character names were not uncommonly the fourth or fifth round of a name changed from its original version. For instance, Ero’s name used to be Samore Edorelo (don’t ask), which then became Relo for short and then Ero – at one point, it was going to be Aeiro, but thank God that one didn’t stick.

Other times, it’s a process of elimination – often, when I’m working on a project with someone else. We bounce a series of names back and forth until we find something that fits the idea of the people we both have in mind.

It’s really that simple – and complicated. ;]

Jay Dee Archer

I use a variety of methods. Mostly, for my science fiction books, I search online for names depending on the country or culture the character is from. That’s the simplest method. But for main characters, I look for meaning. For Ariadne, the main character of the first book is a girl named Solona. I searched for names of various cultural backgrounds that mean “wise.” One that caught my eye was the Greek name Solona. And that’s how her name was chosen.

For fantasy, I’m likely to make things up for given names, but family names may be based on geography, birthplace, family history, jobs, or any other appropriate category. I have yet to create any names for fantasy, though.

How about you?

If you write, how do you choose names for your characters? Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 26 – Impossible Love

Have you ever read a book and found one character you wished were real? A character you’d want to date? I’m sure many people have fallen in love (not real love, of course) with a character. Someone they thought would be a wonderful person if they actually existed.  Well, this intriguing topic comes to us from stomperdad. Linda G. Hill are absent for this month.

Cupid!
Cupid!

Question 26: If you could date any fictional character, who would you date?

H. Anthe Davis

I’m not the relationship type, but I am very fond of certain characters and would like to hang out with them, if only they weren’t all action-fantasy types and thus generally the epicenters of rampant death and violence.  I mean, I guess if I was in their world and had magical powers myself, it would be feasible, but then there’s the fact that most of the characters I like best are somewhat evil…

Elizabeth Rhodes

I honestly don’t have an answer for this one.  Maybe I’ve yet to meet a character that sparks my interest.  Maybe I’ve just avoided taking an interest to unavailable fictional characters.  I’m picky enough when it comes to people in the real world, so I can’t say that there’s any one character I would be interested in dating.

Amy Morris-Jones

This is a tough one! I don’t tend to think of characters in books as dateable when I’m reading, I guess! The first name that came to mind was Sydney Carton from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Okay, so he may perhaps have a bit of a self-esteem issue, but he’s willing to sacrifice himself so that the woman he loves can be happy. What woman can’t appreciate that kind of adoration?

Caren Rich

This would be a much harder question to answer if I had not started reading the Outlander series. I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve made up for it.  I just bought book 3.  Jamie Frasier, is a wonderful character.  He’s smart, handsome, and wears a kilt.  Not to mention deadly with a dirk.  What’s not to love?  On the other hand, James Bond would make for a great evening.  Handsome, suave, and deadly. Never a dull moment there.

Jean Davis

Because my favorite fictional men are usually up to no good, I’m going to restrain myself from dating them. I’d end up with a drained bank account, probably with nothing to wear but a bed sheet, and surrounded by people who want to kill me after the one they really wanted to kill left the building moments before, knowing they were on the way and having left me behind to stall them.

D. T. Nova

I can honestly say I don’t think about this kind of thing very much.

Maybe Nora Barlow from the Leviathan trilogy.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

For me, this is actually a really hard question, because there are so many fictional characters that I love wholeheartedly. My husband even has a mental list that he calls, “Tracey’s Boyfriends”, full of fictional characters and the actors who sometimes play them.

If I have to pick one for this question, I think I’ll go with Jon Snow from the Song of Ice and Fire series. He’s one of my favorite characters because he’s brave and bold, but he makes mistakes and does what he can to live with them, not to mention he’s incredibly loyal and sweet. I think he’d make an excellent date!

S. R. Carrillo

Geryon, from Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. If I remember correctly, he gets his little red heart broken by Herakles, and he was such a wonderful, curious little dude that I’d love to heal him again. :3 Or Gideon from Gideon from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I guess. I don’t know. I really don’t, like… like people enough to wanna date them.

Paul B. Spence

Either Lessa, from the Pern novels, or Clarissa MacDougall, from the Lensman novels.

Jay Dee Archer

I found this a surprising easy question to answer. There’s one character that came to mind as soon as I saw what this question was. When I was in university, I was into the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. One particular character from the Dragonsdawn novel had me intrigued. That’s Sallah Telgar. She was an all around good person who was very heroic. But despite the heroism, I felt that she was my favourite character from the book, and quite likely one of my favourite characters ever. I need to read the book again.

How about you?

Is there a character you’ve always thought was good to date if they were real? Let us know in the comments below.