Naming Characters

I am seriously fond of names. Like, to the point where pretty much anyone who knows me will tell you that. It’s not something I keep very hidden.

I ask people what their middle name is, how they got their name, what their name means, what they would have been named if they had been a girl (if I’m conversing with a guy) and vis-versa. I ask people if they could change their name, what would they change it to. I ask what their favorite names are. I even ask about various spellings. Names are very intriguing.

I’ve gone though and counted all the letters in all my sibling’s full names. I’ve figured out who everyone in my family is named after. I’ve found patterns in our names that no one else has ever come up with.

My sister once got a practically new baby naming book at a garage sale. I think she was planning on putting it away for future years when she might have her own children to name. Instead, it resides on my shelf, battered, worn-torn and much cared for.

Four out of my thirteen writing books on this shelf are baby naming books…
(The “The Baby Names Survey Book” is the one from my sister.)

And yet! And yet, even though (or maybe because?) I like names so very, very much, I have an extremely difficult time naming characters. And I’m not talking about just main characters. I’m also talking about those characters who are talked about once or twice in the whole book.

I’ve written whole books without having a name for a character. In fact, several of my books have had the main character referred to as MC the whole time. Yes, it’s that bad. Names are so important and I don’t want to blotch it when it comes to writing.

Here are some problems I have with naming a character:

*I don’t keep up with modern books/movies/actresses/etc… very much, and therefore I sometimes think I have a great name, only to discover it’s some really popular person and everyone (besides me) who hears the name thinks of that popular person.

*The name has to fit. I want my character to look like, talk like, act like and beΒ like that name. Which sounds weird, but surely you get what I’m saying? And I don’t mean I want a Jane who’s plain or a Dave who’s all popular. I mean, if I name a character Raquel, I want her to… fit her name. (Wow, my explanting skills rock!)

*I am decidedly against names that sound alike/are confusing being in the same book. I recently read a book where only about 15 or so names were mentioned. Those names included: Terry, Todd, Tim and Tara. Linda, Lynn, and Lindy. Karen, Katie and Katherine. As much as I liked the book, I felt like the author just randomly pulled names out of the air, how else would she get so many variations of Linda?

Β A fellow name lover once went though a name book and marked all the names she likedΒ 
so I would have a second opinion on names. That’s the one with the orange paper (a note) on top.
What about you? Do you find it easy to name a character? What are some of your characters names?
Or what about you? What’s your name? Who named you? What does it mean? I’d be delighted to hear all about it! πŸ™‚Β 

14 thoughts on “Naming Characters

  1. Carissa says:

    Oh my, I can totally relate to you! Names are everything! I love names too! I've had that Baby Names Survey Book since I was about 8. πŸ˜€ (No joke.) My name is Carissa and Charis is Greek for grace. My parents wanted a unique name with no “shortenings” so that no one would call me a nickname. (ie, Samantha = Sam.) I've only met one or two other girls who have my name with my spelling! πŸ™‚ And my middle name is Jean, after both my grandmothers and my dad's middle name is Gene. When I was younger I would sign my middle name as Jean-Marie because I thought it was pretty and my mom's middle name is Marie. πŸ™‚ Now, let's hear the story behind your two names!!! πŸ™‚

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  2. Lauren K. Lotter says:

    I love names! Although, I don't think I like them as much as you do! I don't research or think through my characters names that terribly much…I keep a name file on my computer of names I've heard through the years that I really like. I think my favorite characters name is Anders, Swedish for Andrew. My next favorite would be Clint. My first name, Lauren, is derived from the plant, laurel. My middle name, Karoline means free man, strong. My mom named me Lauren because she was huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but thought Laura was too old for a baby. Karoline was because she liked the name because of Laura's ma, but didn't like it spelled with a C. I have several baby name books too that I use as references…internet is great for that too!!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm crazy about names too! πŸ™‚ my name means springtime, which I think is pretty cool cause I was born in the spring πŸ˜‰ (my parents didn't know the meaning of my name when they gave it to me)
    Brigita, Victoria, Annabelle, and Elizabeth are 4 of my characters.
    -Verna

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  4. Stephanie K. says:

    YES. I completely identify–especially with the celebrity thing! I've never written a character as “MC,” but I consistently change the name of my MC at least four times per book. But the one I finally end up with is always perfect. Also, I take my book of baby names everywhere.

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  5. Aidyl Ewoh says:

    Oh, that is so cool! I like the story behind your name. Niiiccceeee! πŸ™‚ My grandma's name was Jean, too. πŸ™‚ My name? Well, Lydia was a seller of purple fabric in the Bible and my dad is a salesperson, hence that name. And, Joy? Well, I guess my family just knew I'd fill the house with so much joy that they named me that. Actually, when I was a kid and wanted to be grumpy my parents would be like “You can't be grumpy, we named you Joy because we knew you'd be joyful!” so, I kinda didn't always like that growing up, but I really like it now! πŸ˜‰

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  6. Aidyl Ewoh says:

    Oh, I like those names… πŸ™‚ And goodness, I really like where your mom got your name! I grew up being extremely into the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I used to pretend that I was Laura. Wow, Lauren Karoline? I like it a lot! And yes, the Internet is a great tool, too, although I must say this is one 'researching item' I like doing with a physical book, better. πŸ™‚

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  7. Aidyl Ewoh says:

    That is so neat! It's really great when names match up and it wasn't even planed that way. πŸ™‚ Oh, I like the names of your characters. They sound kinda Victorian-ish. πŸ™‚

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  8. Aidyl Ewoh says:

    Oh yes, coming up with the perfect name is so rewarding. That's how it was for me with my MC of *When Life Hands You Lymes*. Madalyn Emerson is probably the most perfect name for a character I've ever come up with. Or at least pretty close to the top. The feeling is amazing. πŸ™‚

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  9. Sarah Elizabeth says:

    Woohoo! So good to find other name collectors out here in the world :]

    I have loved names for as long as I can remember, and have notebooks filled with them. My name is pretty common, (but I wouldn't change it for anything) Sarah, means “princess” and my middle name, Elizabeth, means “my God is an oath” or “my God is abundance.” As for naming story characters. . . well, I usually have a name picked before their personality, or even what part they'll play in a story. Is that weird? ;D Anyway, some of my character names include Safia, Peder, Rydan, Kyndi, Edmund, Noya, and Kaely, just to name a few. :]

    If you are interested, I have a whole series of posts on my blog dedicated to names and their history and meanings: http://sarah-plainandaverage.blogspot.com/search/label/Names

    Blessings,
    Sarah

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  10. Carissa says:

    Thanks! I like it too! πŸ™‚ Lydia Joy is such a pretty name. I've always loved the name Joy. πŸ™‚ that's funny about when you were little! So what's the story behind Aidyl Ewoh? πŸ™‚

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  11. Carissa says:

    “Sarah Elizabeth” is a beautiful name!!! πŸ™‚ I keep a list of names I like on my iPod….might have to add that one to it. πŸ™‚

    ~Carissa~
    delightinjoy.wordpress.com

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  12. Bethany says:

    Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of writing too. I get a lot of ideas from looking through the card catalog at the library where I work, especially for last names. My main book I'm working on right now is set in the Old Testament, so I've had to do a lot of research for names from the cultures around Israel back then.
    My dad named me, and my middle name is Paige. Bethany means “house of God”, and Paige means “servant”, so I like to switch them around and say my name means “Servant in the House if God”. I don't know if my dad knew the meanings before he named me, but I think it's pretty neat!

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