Thursday, February 5, 2009

Naming Characters

by Rebecca Talley

I was asked in an interview, "Where do you come up with the names of your characters?" I answered that I usually choose names I wanted to use with my kids but my husband blacklisted.

It's interesting to read almost the same response from other women. Perhaps, our writing is a way to use those baby names after all?

In order to come up with contemporary names, I've looked through my children's yearbooks, asked them to name off kids in their classes, and I've even looked through the phone book to find last names. For me, once I name a character, it's hard to rename him/her. It's almost like trying to change the name of one of my kids.

I'm not very good at naming characters. And, I'm always afraid to use a name of someone I know just in case it offends that person. I'm working on a middle grade novel that has a bully in it and I so want to use the name of the girl who bullied me all through school, but I'm thinking I better not, even though it's a perfect name for an ugly bully.

I've also found that certain names conjure up certain images in my mind. Some names seem pretty while others seem ugly. Some names just seem to shout "nerdy" or "cool" or "ultra-intelligent." It's hard to imagine a rocket scientist with the name of Bambi or a beauty queen named Agnes or Gladys (no offense, but those are just "old lady" names to me).

So, I'm curious--how do you choose names for your characters?

1 comment:

Lee Ann Setzer said...

I'm forever choosing names that "just sound right," only to discover later that the reason they sounded so good together was because they're well-known, for whatever reason. Like, last August I was choosing pseudonyms for two little boys in my Tiny Talks book. I wanted an "R" name and a "P" name, and I choose "Ron" and "Paul." Duh, of COURSE it sounded familiar! Luckily caught that one before going to press.

Baby name books and websites are also good. I like to choose a name, then tweak it, for fantasy names.