Thursday, September 9, 2010

Naming Characters

Am I the Only One?

I have to wonder if I’m the only person who has trouble naming my characters. Do you, by chance, agonize over your characters’ names? Please say that you do (even if it’s not true).

Exotic Names

Part of the problem, for me, is that I’m drawn to exotic names. I have a character in one book named Genesis. Her friends, of course, call her Gene. She was told by her parents that she was so named because her Mom was studying Genesis in her Torah study group. But really! Who names their daughter Genesis? Thus far, I can’t seem to let go of the name and rename the character so the manuscript sits on a shelf waiting.

In another book, I have the main character named Milan. Yep, she was conceived in Milan while her parents were on their honeymoon there. At least they didn’t honeymoon in Rhinebeck. Come to think of it, that is a fine name for a character. Excuse me while I add that to my list of possible character names.

Or how about a police detective named Tai? It’s not pronounced Tay, but rather Tie. That book is currently being assessed by a publisher. What will happen if they like the manuscript but hate the name? Will I be able to come up with a different name any time in the next decade? Perhaps I should start thinking of alternative names right now.

Symbolic Names

For a while, I named every bad person in my book be they serial killers, megalomaniacs, or cheating husbands, etc., etc., with the initials of my ex. I had a lot of fun doing that. I only hope my ex recognizes the characters for who they are. I finally got over that because it became very limiting trying to find names to fit the initials. This is a lesson for those of you who love a writer - never, ever piss off a writer because you will be immortalized in every book he or she writes.

I recently started a new book and the name that popped into my head for this character is Tango Redding. Why? Maybe because I bought a car and the color of the car is, you guessed it, “Tango Red.” Why couldn’t it have been Rose or Roseanne?

Mundane Names

These days, I’m trying to move away from both the exotic and symbolic names. In my current work in progress, I have a male character named Jackson. Uh, that’s his first name not his last. Maybe I haven’t moved as far away from the exotic as I thought especially considering the story is set in 1903-1907. Maybe, I’ll change his name. To what though is the question. Lawrence is mundane enough, I think.

Do you see what I mean about not being able to name these people? I considered calling him Jason then Cotton (after Cotton Mather), settled on Jackson and am now searching for another name. Maybe by the time I’ve written the rest of the book, he’ll have a name he can call his own. In the meantime, I wonder if Rhinebeck would work for him. It’s a nice strong masculine name. But what would his friends call him? Rhine sounds silly, but Beck might work. Hmmmm.

Keeping a List

This is precisely why I keep a list of possible names. When I come across an interesting name, I add it to the list. I also keep an app on my iPhone called “Baby Names,” which is always a good resource when I become stuck for a name.

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