Sunday, March 16, 2008

Choosing Character Names is Difficult...

Selecting the right character name is essential. "Wilber Noodle" and "Mason Stonewall" suggest two different people, two types of dress, employment, lifestyle, etc. So it's important to pick wisely for the type of character you're trying to portray.

I won't lie - choosing character names is cool for me, but it can also be frustrating when I can't find the exact match I'm looking for. I'm also a creature of habit, so if I name a character "Clay" and later need to change it to "Derek" it's like reprogramming my mind because in my head, in those pages, he's still "Clay." So for me, it's more important I pick the names I want first and stick to them.

How does one find character names?
  • The Internet (God Bless Technology!) has many sites with baby names for every year, decade, cultural background. I love being able to find out which 10 names were the most popular during a certain year for a certain place.
  • Dig up those high school and college yearbooks! They're not just paperweights anymore! Mix and match, look through and see what you find.
  • Use location-specific resources if you're writing about a specific lineage. My work in progress has Irish themes and characters, so I've found websites and friends who know about cultural areas, myths and legends, etc.
  • Don't be too stereotypical when naming a character. "Paddy O'Daniel" or "Sean O'Malley" might be authentic, but try to be a bit more original. Although, as I type this, I knew a Sean and Colleen O'Malley growing up. They used to ruin my homemade mud pies, so no, I didn't select their names for my Irish characters!

What works when creating your characters, especially if you are writing historical or paranormal? How do you choose?

1 comment:

Art said...

You could also use baby name books and/or websites for character names. Many of them also give information on what the name means and that can be a clue to who your character is.