Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Fricassee

It's another one of those really-busy-Fridays-so-I'm-posting-fast-and-early.  Because, yanno, this Fricassee thing has become a sort of compulsion.

Okay, not really.  But it is an important connection point, because I usually hear from more of you during my Friday posts--and I love that!

So let's talk about character names.  This is probably on the top of my mind because my husband, the Dear Mr. A, actually named one of the main characters in my WIP.  I was stuck, and the first suggestion Mr. A made was...well, perfect.  Either he knows me well, he's magical, or it was dumb luck.

Character names are intensely personal for me, so getting a name from my husband was outside the box.  What about you?  Do you choose character names wrought with meaning and symbolism inherent to the story (think JK Rowling)? Do you choose character names that convey strength (Stone...Buck...Gibraltar...?) or beauty (Belle...Vista...Lovelytoes...?)?  Do you bestow your characters with the names of your best friends, spouses, poodles, eccentric neighbors?  Or do you make up names in the hope of being uber-creative (L'frentia DeLu'u'y)?

Share your naming process!  And, just for fun, share the names of characters in novels you've read that you've absolutely hated (the names, not the novels).  As in, I-can't-take-this-character-seriously-because-his-name-is-so-stupid.  (Or maybe because it's the name of your ex-boyfriend or the gal who beat you up in the locker room...but that's a different story.)

Happy weekend!


  1. I think most people could probably agree that Reneseme was one of the stupidest character names ever. If you type it into Microsoft Word, the spell check suggests "rename". Seriously. Try it.

    As for me, mine usually reflect personality (Lucette for a light, bubbly French girl), though sometimes I just pick something random in a pinch. This time around, I was working with an adaptation, so I didn't have as much flexibility. Still, I made them my own. I am doing Midsummer Night's Dream, and made Helena to Lena, Demetrius to Demetri, Lysander to Xander, etc.

  2. Sometimes I think long and hard about character names, look up their meanings in baby name books, try to understand their origins, and even google them to make sure they aren't commonly being used by other writers.

    Other times, I'll just be writing along, and the character just gets the first name that pops into my head. This has happened on several notable occasions. The first was a character that I thought would be a one-off, and I'd always liked the name Hannah, since I knew a super-cool girl by that name when I was an impressionable 10-year-old. Now the Hannah in my book looks to be cozying up to the main characters a bit more, and I think we're going to see more of her in the future.

    Sometimes the name just works, and other times, I really do need to research a bit more before I arbitrarily assign a name. Several times I've actually changed a character's name after I assigned it, because it didn't really work anymore.

    I don't name characters after friends, but sometimes you can't help it, or it doesn't even occur to you that you know someone by that name in real life. And I NEVER "invent" names. Ick.

  3. My names just come to me as I get to know the characters. Sometimes I will write half the story referring to a character as "dude" or "girl" or even " heroine" because I refuse to give them a name until I find one that fits. There have been cases where the name has come to me first then I have had to work out who they are and what their story is.
    The same theory applied to naming my kids too - one was nameless for two days while one was named months before birth :-)

  4. I get my names by just searching baby name books until one seems to "fit" the characters. Every once and a while I'll just think up a random name out of no where and that ends up being the perfect name for the characters.

    I read this one book recently where the girl's name was Anna (which is a lovely name) but then she renamed herself Mistletoe -.- I could not take her seriously after that, especially since it was suppose to be a YA and after that she seemed too young to me.

  5. Ooooh, names! *claps hands*
    In MSs #1 and #2, I just named the characters things that I liked. The girls had to sound sweetly BA and the boys had to sound approachably sexy.

    MS #3 is a whole new ballgame. Each name has to have long linguistic roots and be deeply symbolic. Luckily I'm a bit of a language geek, so it's fun deconstructing and reconstructing.

    I heard that there was a book with a character named Tobias in it, but I know his name is really, always, and ever FOUR. :)

  6. I'm all over the map with how I name characters. Deep meanings, random name generators, adding random apostrophes. But mostly I try to find a name that looks and sounds pretty (and then doesn't bring up anything odd or inappropriate in a Google search ;-).

    So there's one name that, while I don't hate it, I can no longer take it seriously. I mean, his name's Peeta and he makes bread.

  7. Sometimes, I come up with a name immediately. Other times, I go through baby name websites for the right one. And still others, I go to my writer friends and say 'QUICK! I need a (gender) name that suits a (adjective) character!'.

    Somewhat annoyingly, that last one is how I got the last MC. I kept struggling, then realized I wanted to write her the same way I did the MC in the last story, and guessed it was because both names were two-syllable and had identical last syllables. I asked for a female name that could have the same nickname. It worked.

    Now I can never live it down.

  8. I just pick things I like the sound of that I think fit the character - but it's always a good idea to google character names. I contribute to another writers' forum and am always asking people 'Have you never googled this name? Really?' Several times I've seen names that are already famous characters or celebrities or just names for objects that the author wasn't aware of. One guy was writing a serious gangsta novel whose MC shared the name of a famous British comedian. Come on, people. Check these things.

    Saying that, I just got through the mail a flyer for a concert in which the conductor shares the same name as one of my characters, who is a composer. The conductor isn't famous, but it was a fun coincidence.

  9. It depends on the project.

    Sometimes, I'll find a meaningful name that either describes the character or suggests why readers should be watching that character. Sometimes, I'll just pick a name from thin air. I'll even use name generators, and then tweak the name.

    For one project, I needed Japanese names, so I explained what I was trying to do to a Japanese friend of mine and asked for her help. Once she was done glaring at me for giving her a hard task, she came through. :)

  10. My characters tend to pop into my head pretty fully formed and almost always have a name as soon as they arrive. Which makes it really frustrating when I need to change one, because these characters don't like having their names changed...

  11. I usually use family names (those that are no longer living, that is) or bits and pieces of family names (either the first or the last). Makes them more real to me. And I have their names before I write one word.

    As for names I hated in books I read - I'm sure there are some, but for the life of me I can't think of any. Usually, it's names I can't pronounce that I hate the most.

  12. The name game...LOVE! I agree with many of the posters in sometimes it just comes. I have noticed that with my MC the names either come to me in a ray of awesomeness or are family names. When inspiration strikes, I often look up the name to make sure it jives with the character's background and such. I have also used names that I just LOVED and would have named my own children, if I had more or had a girl... Heh.

  13. Am I the only one that will admit to choosing names that are easy to type? :)

    I'm only half serious. Well, okay. I'm serious. At least for my first few projects. I'm branching out more now. Ha!

  14. I know this probably seems backwards, but I "tend" to have a name reveal itself to me and the character developes around the name. Sometimes I start with a character and try to find the right name, but more often than not I agonize way too much over the name that way and spend an insane amount of time researching books, the internet, etc.

    I do keep a book of names that I come across that I plan to use at some point (and yes, they all have certain character traits that seem imbedded in the name, to me).

    Does anyone else have certain names that "feel" like is infused with certain attribues? My current WIP has a bad guy whose name just scream "Evil Character" to me as soon as I heard it.

  15. I name my characters according to their personalities to they way they look. I want the names to be perfect for the character, so if I can't find the names in the place I thought I would, I try another place, all in hopes to find the perfect name.

    If I need a new name, I generally have to change my character to fit the name, even in the slight bit.

    Occasionally I create my own names, simply because there isn't a name that fits the description.

    @T.Z. I've had names that do the same thing to me. I think they are also some of the best names if they are "infused with certain attributes."

  16. Some names just come to me or feel like the right fit with a character. Other names I research (like if a character has a certain cultural background I search for names in that culture). Or I look up name meanings and try to match the character with his or her name meaning.

  17. How funny, I just wrote a blog post about making up words and names.

    Usually they just come to me. I like playing with sounds and the meanings conveyed by sounds. The two rival pop stars in my sci fi WIP are called idoLL and Jettison Prix.

    If I'm stuck I'll use

    I'll cruise the meanings of the names and sometimes combine or alter names I find there.

    Naming people, places, and things is one of my favourite parts about writing.

  18. I hate naming characters. I always feel like I can't write until I choose names for my major characters, but it takes me forever to find ones I like. Mostly, I just flip through baby books, praying that there will magically be better names this time. I usually don't make up names (just because I stink at it), but I sometimes use uncommon names if I'm writing a fantasy.

    One thing I've noticed is that a whole lot of my characters have names that begin with L or Al. Seriously, I've had Alistair, Lucinda, Alana, Luca, Lea, Liza, Lynn, Cal, Alair, Alec... It took me forever to realize I was doing it, but now its kind of a private joke - I always include at least on L or Al character in my WIP.

  19. Wow, Authoress, this was timely!

    My MG novel coming out in June is titled Michaela's Gift. The name Michaela just seemed like the right name for this girl - I thought it sounded Scottish enough for the character, and she was born with that name, so I didn't think anything about it.

    Then I went and looked up the meaning, and it's "Who is like God." That threw me, because in the story, she has a gift that enables her to create life. That sort of sent chills down my back when I read it, so thanks for the post.

    Otherwise, I'm all over the place with names. Sometimes a very unlikeable character is named after a bully from my younger days. Others take lots more consideration.

    Have a great weekend!

  20. Ha! Agree with Leigh Ann above. Tobias's name is Four. Nothing else. Certainly not Tobias. I think I have problems when names change midway through (also happened in Anna and the French Kiss - everyone called the main dude St. Clair, and then she starts calling him Etienne. Didn't work for me).

    I have one WIP on the back burner, and the main character doesn't have a name yet. Once she decides to tell me, maybe we can work together.

  21. I'm with you's Four all the way, baby.

    One name I absolute hate? Katniss. Because every time I read it I kept thinking Kat Piss.

  22. My entire naming convention would take way too much space, but I can tell you that in my most recent novel, one of the main characters ended up with my real-life nephew's name (halfway on purpose, but mainly because the name fit the rest of the process). Because I did that, though, I actually chose to name another character after my niece - they're too young for the book right now, but I don't want to be responsible for the sibling rivalry down the road!

  23. My main characters come to me named. I have a lot of fun with the others. For my fantasy ms, it was mainly symbolism. Sylvie (from the latin sylvan) for the wood faerie. Edan (gaelic for little fire) for the leader of the Star Clan, etc.

    For my latest ms which is set in south Texas, I used a lot of the surnames of people I knew growing up there- Ondarza, Ruiz, Jimenez.

  24. In my #1 wip, I needed two Native American names and I spent hours doing research trying to find the right name that gave the meaning I wanted.

    In my #2 wip, I quickly decided on Harold. I love that name - it fits my character (a 12-year-old, high-functioning Austic boy) perfectly -at least in my head.

  25. In my recent work I gave my MC a last name that alludes to a classic work of literature, and a common first name that just popped into my mind. I gave his love interest a name that I thought sounded ethereal, but I was having trouble with her character, so in draft 2 I renamed her the first name that popped into my head. I instantly liked her character much better. The name chosen by intuition works beautifully. I also renamed one of her friends the first thing that popped into my head and the character started working better for me (although she is a minor character).

  26. This is going to sound a bit silly, but I write romance. So when I pick a name, I am sure to pick one that can be:

    a) called out in passion during an intimate moment

    b) used as an expletive or in anger to get the attention of the person who's name it is

    I don't read a lot of popular fiction and don't watch television and rarely see a movie, and somehow oddly pick names that are suddenly famously famous. Which is sort of annoying, actually, as I know nothing about those famous people/characters that have those names.

    The other important part about a name is that I can pronounce it in my head when I'm reading. I've put down more than one book because they names were ridiculous and unpronounceable.

  27. Thank you for Friday Fricassee.. I haven't thought too much about this before. I've named the characters in first WIP, from people in the long gone past - but still in my heart ;)
    My recent WIP is starting off with strength of name matching character behavior.
    But I never really plan too much--but I do Google it.
    Thanks again.

  28. I get character names so many different ways. Most of the time they just "come to me" and sometimes I look in my favorite baby name book. On my current WIP I started obsessively giving everyone names with double consonants - Evva, Larra, Garrett, Devvon - and then realized it was a HUGE part of the world building!

    I can't think of a specific book with a character name that bothered me, but I AM sick and tired of male leads named Jack - please. Enough already! :)

  29. My naming process depends on the story. Mostly, I stare out a window or something until a name comes to me. After letting the mind wander a bit, it usually works. Though I’ve recently found I’ve this fondness for names starting with L and K.
    But there’s been times I’ve wanted a certain feel. One story uses the genus names for plants (not the whole thing, just a bit). Another needed names that would’ve been used in ancient Egypt. So scanning the web and reading books has given me some good-sounding names.
    In my current WiP I’ve guy that’s sort of straddling the evil/good line. I trolled the net for hours looking to name him. You know what? I called him Lucias. ^_^

  30. I have it pretty easy except for the case of my beau's ex-wife in my book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds. It's a humorous book about becoming a stepmom and I have a chapter devoted to Ex encounters and avoiding Ex-spouses called "So Nice Not to Meet You." Using Ex rather than using the person's real name just seemed like the thing to do, not only because most stepmoms have to deal with an Ex, but because this Ex happens to be a lawyer.

  31. Usually, it's the first name that pops into my head. Nice and easy :)

  32. I can almost never "believe" names I've chosen unless I've borrowed their given or surname from someone I know or have met This actually helps because I get to do horrible things to people I don't like very much and sing the praises of people I admire and care for. It often lends to characterization, too, because they invariably end up with some distinctive traits I attribute to that person.

    Occasionally I do have to make something up, and in that case it's definitely dripping with linguistic meaning and metaphor.

  33. Great thread! I agree that both Renesmee and Peeta crack me up. Something else I've noticed is how many names repeat in Jane Austen's novels--Elizabeth, Mary, Henry, Eleanor, and Anne all recur in multiple books, often with vastly different personalities. And the author used her own name for one of the main characters in Pride & Prejudice! I couldn't imagine giving my name to one of my characters or repeating names for major characters in different WIPs.

    Anyway, my methods vary, but I will cop to naming one of the characters in my current project after my cat. *blushes*

  34. For my current WIP, I had a great name and great nickname, then came across that same nickname in THREE different books of the same genre in one month. Obviously overdone. Had to give her a "placeholder" name until I could find something else that fit.

    Lately, as I've read YA there have been a bunch of "cat" names: Katniss, Kat, Cat, Kitty, Katrina, Katy. Enough already!

  35. I've found the Social Security's popular baby name site to be a great help. Especially when you're looking for an name from a different generation. But I also resort to paging through my son's yearbook too. More so for the last names.

    I hated Reneseme. Can't think of others right now. But any name I have to stop and think about how to pronounce turns me off.

  36. All of the characters in my current WIP started out with made-up sci-fi/fantasy types names and I realized I hated them. I renamed all but one with names from the SSA top 100 most popular baby names from 1890. It really helps to have a list to go to when I need to quickly name a minor character without slowing down the flow of words.

    I also try not to give my characters the names of any of my relatives. Trouble is I have a LOT of relatives. I had to make a list so I wouldn't forget. (After I slipped up and named my MC's father after a nephew. Fortunately, it's a fairly common name.)

    As for names I hated, I'd have to agree about Renesme. When Bella first mentioned that she was thinking of naming her daughter that, I really expected everyone else to groan and say keep trying. I was stunned when she went ahead with it and I stumbled over it every time I saw it. It's weird because I think SM did a great job with her name choices overall, evoking both time period and character.