Thursday, August 19, 2010

How do you...

...Name Characters?

On the last How do you... post I talked about creating characters. This week, I am currently starting a new project and am knee deep in this process once again (my favorite place to be!). The most basic thing is naming the character that you've spent so many hours building.

A name is so important. It can instantly draw a picture in someone's mind about what this character looks like and who they are. That's why I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out what my main character's name was going to be for this newest novel.

Here's my general process:

I'm a meaning gal. I like to look for names that have a certain meaning behind them. The worst part about this is you can trap yourself in a box if you refuse to look outside the meaning of a name. I knew this newest MC of mine is going to be a badass chick who can handle her own (and his own, and the guy over there's own) in a fight and I knew her mother was also a fanatic about what she is training to do. So I thought I wanted something a famous female warrior was named. But then I looked at the list...

So I decided to go with meaning. I typed in "warrior" and got back a bunch of not so pretty names.Then I tried "brave", "valiant", "honest", and "noble". Basically, I was getting no where and fast.

So I thought to myself, 'self, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think legendary female warrior'? Myself though back 'Freaking Athena, dummy'. That's when it clicked. I'm looking for name love in all the wrong places. I don't want something that means warrior, I want something Greek in origin, some name Athena herself could have reached down and touched.

The funniest thing is, I knew her last name first. Ever heard that expression "you gotta pay the piper". Well, I thought it's be awesome if her family inspired that phrase. So I knew her last name was Piper. I just had to pick a name that went well with it.

This is my list:

  • Olivia 
  • Cassandra
  • Arianna 
  • Cleopatra 
  • Alexandra
  • Echo
  • Jacey 
  • Pandora 
  • Selena 
  • Sophia 
  • Triona 
  • Veronica 
I loved the idea of the longer/odd names on the list because of the nickname possibilities. This character could have been my Cass, Livia, Cleo, Pan, or Ronnie. But after some discussion with my closest advisors, I settled on Jacey because it's unique and really fit this badass character persona.

So now I've got Jacey Piper, the youngest monster hunter in recent history and if I do say so myself, damn, she is cool! 

Figuring out who I wanted my character to be, what I wanted her name to sound like, and the right origin is how I found the perfect name for my newest character!

How do you name your characters? Careful planning? Just a list of backlogged names? A stroke of genius?


  1. For me, it varies.

    If I carefully plan out a character before setting down to write, I also already have their named planned - usually I scroll through pages and pages of names, sorting through meaning, but also heritage.

    If my character is unplanned and I just begin to write, eventually the name just fills itself in. As much as I prefer planning my characters, I really enjoy having the name just come to me in the midst of writing; it always makes me feel like, yes, that is meant to be their name. And that feeling is wonderful.

  2. I'm loving the name you chose. It's kind of cute, but still very kick ass.

    I always have to know the name before writing--heck, even before PLANNING anything involving the character. I'm a little weird that way.

    As far as finding names, it depends. I was writing a character of Persian descent, so I wanted something to reflect that, but that also felt really modern. So I had to do some research there. Otherwise, it's usually some combination of trolling through the US Census Bureau and, hoping to find something that "sounds" like the character I'm thinking about.


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