Sunday, September 22, 2013

17 Question of the Week: How Do You Name Your Characters?

Hey everyone! It’s Clara Kensie, back with a new Question of the Week! Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as writing is talking about writing. So each week here at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK
September 22, 2013
HOW DO YOU NAME YOUR CHARACTERS?

photo credit: p!o via photopin cc

My answer: I like to name my characters right away, almost first thing, in the very beginning stages of plotting. Sometimes it stalls my plotting process—I simply can’t move forward until I’ve found the perfect names for my hero and heroine. I start off with a general idea of who they are, but they’re not complete, they’re not “real,” until I find their names. As I add secondary characters, I like to pick their names early in the character-sketch process, although quite often I’ll change their names as I move forward.

If I’m having trouble thinking of a name, I’ll use baby naming websites as a resource for first names. I like Baby Names World because you can search by meanings of names, and it also lists similar names. I also use the official Social Security website , especially for the parents and grandparents of my teenage protagonists, because you can find popular names by year of birth. I use Mongabay to find last names (it lists first names too).

I had no trouble thinking of the names of my hero and heroine in RUN TO YOU. I named Tristan and Tessa almost immediately. The names just came to me, they felt “right,” and they are absolutely perfect for their characters. All along I had this crazy phobia that my editor would tell me to change their names for some reason. But I just turned in my line edits on Friday and she’s never told me to change them, so they will forever be Tristan and Tessa. Hooray!

WHAT ABOUT YOU: At what point in your writing process do you name your characters? How and where do you find their names?







17 comments:

  1. Funny, I blogged about this last week!
    A few of my characters are named in the beginning, but most aren't named until after the first few drafts. Then I take twenty minutes to brainstorm unique, alien sounding names and from that list, match them up to the characters.

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    1. Interesting that you don't name most of your characters until after the first few drafts! Do you use placeholders until that point, like "Villain" and "Minion?" LOL.

      I love your process of thinking of names first and then matching them up with your characters!

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  2. I like to go to cemeteries and get names off the gravestones. Or sometimes I'll get them off TV shows or movies. I have a lot of characters named after people on sitcoms...

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    1. Cool idea of going to cemeteries to find names. TV and movie characters always have cool names too. Great resources!

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  3. Once I have a feel for my character, I think of names that approximate their personality, time period. Then I use the Baby Name Generator (Nymbler?) site to list possibilities.

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    1. I just checked out Nymbler. Very cool! Thanks for the resource, Laura!

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    2. WOW, that site looks addicting. I love discovering new and unique names. This looks like a really cool site for NaNoWriMo when I'm in a pinch! Thanks! :D

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  4. Ooh, it really depends on the character. Sometimes all I have is a name, other times I have a character that already talks to me in my head but I have to go searching high and low for the right name, and sometimes I just flip through a baby naming book and pick one at random. I try to give my characters unique, but believable and pronounceable names (like Indie, Cosmo, and Hazel).

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    1. I love the names Indie, Cosmo, and Hazel! Great point about the name being pronounceable. I'd hate to stumble over a character's name every single time my eyes landed on it!

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    2. Yes! That's something that really bugs me. I've read entire books (entire series, even, sometimes) and I still won't know how to pronounce a character's name. It's infuriating! ;P

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  5. I write nonfiction and my characters are all real people. However, in a fictional work I would think that it might be more productive to see how a character evolves before finalizing the name.

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  6. Depending on the story, I tend to start off with getting to know my character a bit then thinking through name options that fit the person. I have changed a character name after the writing started (and getting feedback from crit group members) when the name situation turned rather melodic and sing-songy. Not good when you're writing about a planet on the verge of destruction lol!

    If my character is of a specific ethnic background and I want that to be a part of who they are, I try to do a little research to find an appropriate name, so I don't end up naming a Kenyan-born-and-raised character something like, well, Bob.

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  7. My character names are born with the characters. I've been teaching for nearly thirty years and have always kept an ongoing list of names that catch my eye. I'm a sucker for tweaks on Shakespeare characters. Was that my outside theatre major voice?

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  8. A lot of times, the names pop into life along with the characters - other times I use baby name sites too. I like the ones that sort by popular names for the decades :)

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  9. My major characters, for the most part, come to me fully formed and named. Secondary characters not so much and I drag out my baby name books and find something appropriate.

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  10. I can't begin drafting or writing until my characters have names. If I'm lucky, they pop into my head with a name already attached, otherwise I use baby naming books. Some characters, like the MMC in my YA WIP went through three or four different names before I finally settled on one that truly fit his farm boy nature.

    I like to use the credits of television shows I like to come up with sur-names.

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  11. I have to name my characters before I start writing. On rare occasions, I have change a name or two, but usually not. For me, a character's name is the starting point I need to get my story going.

    Thanks for this post and for this blog!


    Blessings,

    MaryAnn

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