Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's In A Name?



When writing fiction, there are so many little things to take into consideration. One of them is names for your characters. Do you pull out a name from the air and plunk it onto characters A, B and C? Then forget about it?

Or do you give considerable thought to naming your characters? Should you pick a strong name for a strong character and vice-versa? Should a glamourous woman have a name that goes along with her physical traits? Should a nerdy guy have a nerdy name?

If you've ever had to come up with a name for a newborn baby, you know the thought process involved. There are names you like, ones you hate and would never use, ones that are traditional in a family and ones you and your spouse cannot agree upon. It's a difficult job and naming your characters is not easy either.

One of the things to consider is the time in which your story is set. If it's a historical setting, don't go for 21st century names. Names in the colonial era of our country were different from those during the Civil War time period. In science fiction, you might even make up names no one has ever heard of.

Don't use names that have already been made famous in other novels. Forget Scarlett, Huckleberry, Ebenezer or any name that has instant recognition. You want your character's name to stand on its own. Who knows? Maybe your character will become one like the famed ones we already know.

Many authors use alliteration when choosing a name. That's OK if you do it occasionally but don't make a habit of it. Don't have several characters in one story with a first and last name beginning with the same letter. 

Is it alright to use real names you've run across in life? I think it is. You often see a page in front of the book that says something about the characters all being fictional. A protection for the author. Now and then, we run across a name of a real person that we think would be a good character name. When I was writing a juvenile novel, I used a name that I heard a friend mention once. She was telling a story about something in her hometown and mentioned the woman's name--Bertha Bloomer. It struck me immediately that I wanted Bertha Bloomer in my book. And she did end up as a woman who ran a boarding house for coal miners in my story. She was only a minor character but perhaps a reader would remember her for her name.

Consider the personality traits of your character when selecting a name for her/him. That might help you choose a good name. Is your character kind, cruel, sleazy, a pervert, or a helpful person? 

There are times when writing fiction that the name of a character comes to you without any thought process at all. It's just there. When that happens, I consider it a gift. It was meant to be. It happens fairly often which is a real plus for the writer.

Charles Dickens had a knack of selecting memorable names. Some fit the personality of the character and others were ones you remember because of the character himself. Names like Oliver Twist, Uriah Heep, Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and more. 

Don't toss up a group of names and let one land on your character. Give it some thought. Google naming characters in fiction for some detailed articles on this subject. 

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