Naming your Characters (#NaNoPrep)

Today is NaNo Prep Day.  Between that and a recent request for me to blog about how I name characters, I thought this was a good post to have now.  After all, you don’t want to go into NaNo and suddenly have to search for a character’s name.

Even pantsers often have characters prepared that dictate what happens in the novel.  These characters need the perfect name.  But how do you choose that perfect name?

My characters’ names come from all sorts of places.  Sometimes a character’s name just is there.  Those are nice days.  Taylor had a name before he had a character or a plot, as did Trouble.  That’s because the source of inspiration for both characters was also the source of inspiration for the concept and the name.  Some names just fit the character perfectly and you know it.  I named Evie in the shower the night I made up Hero/Villain and I knew her last name was Dark, although I fought it because, come on, Evie Dark?  But then once I had Apollo Eastman and Ace Starr, Dark had to stay to foil all that light.

Characters can be named after characters in other books, shows, movies, songs, etc.  Ace was named from a Doctor Who character, as was Rosie (from Rose).  While Justin in Love Sucks was not named after anyone (but Justin in Taylor-Made was named after him), his last name, Chase, was after a character on House.

Sometimes you can name a character after a person you know.  Or because you’ve always liked that name.  Mailee was named after a person who works at my company (I actually hadn’t met her, only talked to her on the phone, at the time I wrote LS).  A character now named Noah in TM was named Craig because I needed a quick and easy name and that one fit him.  Unfortunately, I know a Craig at the same place I know a Justin (met after I named LS’s Justin), so I had to change one of them and Justin is always going to be Justin.  Malinda was named after an author because I liked the name. You might find inspiration from actors’ or singers’ names.

Sometimes you have a certain idea for what kind of name a character needs.  It feels like a name that starts with B (Blake) or it needs to be a wholesome name (Rebecca, but then I was sold when I saw the nickname “Bex,” which was a perfect nickname coming from Trouble), or it has to be from a certain culture.  Naming books and websites can really help in this area.  Also if you want your character’s name to mean something (Blake, btw, means black.  And white.) or you need a popular name from a certain timeframe (Lawrence was pretty popular decades ago), websites are your friend.

For me, though, names often come from the world-building.  In AFTRLYF and HEVNSNT, my angels of death are always named after some mythological or religious name associated with death.  In DownLoad, the cyborgs were named based off two letters of the alphabet.  Since most ended with N, this made for convenient normal(ish) names.  Dean, Ian, Finn, Gwen, etc.  In In a Pear Tree, the elves are all named after Christmas- or winter-related things (except Shin’s family which is Jewish).

So that’s where most of my character names come from.  What about you?

Lots of love,
P.S. Two weeks left to enter the Trick-or-Treat Love Sucks Giveaway.  Don’t forget 🙂

3 thoughts on “Naming your Characters (#NaNoPrep)

  1. I’m a pantser who’s attempting to outline in NaNo prep as well, and I totally agree that getting the right name for a character is one of the first things that needs to happen in either case. I can’t move forward if I don’t know who my people are. Not in a novel, anyway.

    I use a lot to search for names. Meanings are very important to me. Also, since I’m a synesthete, I choose names on the basis of color as well. So when I hit up that website, it usually goes like this: “Okay, need a male name, something Gaelic, and orange-y. What’ve we got?” And then pick out something that fits from there.

    Or I just pick one that sounds cool. Whichever, heh.

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