Another month, another authors’ Round Robin!
And this month our topic is:
How do you choose your characters’ names? Are there any you avoid?
I thought this topic might be quite easy to write about but, actually, once I started thinking about it, I realised in many ways choosing names for your characters is even harder than choosing a name for a child. Many people choose their child’s name because a) they love the name and/or b) it’s the name of a beloved family member.
This doesn’t work when choosing characters’ names. In fact, in the category ‘what names do you avoid?’, I’d place names of family or friends! I’d be thinking of their personalities and faces all the time as I was writing, and I’d find that just too odd.
(Having said that, I did appear as myself in a cameo role in Marsha West’s romantic suspense, Tainted. That was really good fun. It was strange at first finding myself in a scene, but author Marsha West made my appearance work really well!)
I’ve found this another thought-provoking topic in our Round Robin, and so here are my nine tips on choosing characters’ names.
- The hero of my novel The Summer of Love and Secrets is called Paul Farrell. Paul is a journalist. It wasn’t until the novel was published that I discovered there is a real-life Paul Farrell who is a journalist, for the Guardian, amongst other publications. I checked out his Twitter profile and he even looks a little like my hero!
I’d like to hope the real Paul Farrell would approve of my hero. (One day I should get in touch with him and ask.) So my number one tip is, once you’ve decided on a character’s name…Google it before using! I found this out the hard way.
2. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love symbolism. Choosing a name that’s symbolic of your character’s personality is good fun. Felicity, the heroine of Felicity at the Cross Hotel, brings happiness wherever she goes. Kurt Bold, the hero of Penny’s Antique Shop of Memories and Treasures, is a brave man of few words. ‘Kurt by name and curt by nature,’ as the heroine says of him!
3. In a similar vein, try to choose a name that suits the character’s personality or their job. If you have a duke in your story, he’s unlikely to be called Wayne (although it could be fun if you did decide to give him this name!) This leads onto…
4. Beware of passing your own name prejudices onto your characters. Perhaps you remember that kid in class who was a bully. There was a bully in my class called James, and I have a bully in my short story for Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium called Jim. (With many apologies to all the really nice Jameses out there.)
But name prejudice is something to be wary of, as this article in the Daily Mail called ‘”Chav” names feared by teachers’ shows.
Other practical tips:
5. Don’t use similar names for your characters. This is something I look out for when editing. I just edited a manuscript with a female character called Jess and a male character called Jessie. I know how easy it is as a writer to become involved in your characters and not ‘see’ them from the outside. Of course we do meet people with similar names in real life, but this can easily cause confusion for readers, and confusion is to be avoided.
6. Try not to have a massive difference in the names of siblings. For example, a brother called Gyuri and a sister called Anne may seem odd – unless there’s a particular reason in the plot for the difference
7. If you’re writing historical fiction, try to make sure the names you’re choosing are appropriate to the time. (Chardonnay and Kai are fairly recent names in the UK.) This is an obvious tip, but reading lots of fiction from the era helps.
8. Read the name aloud. If your novel is ever turned into an audiobook, how will the name sound? A Helena Rigby could be an Eleanor Rigby in a Yorkshire accent. Is the name clear and understandable?
9. Fantasy authors have both a wonderful opportunity to be inventive and perhaps an even more difficult job of coming up with great names. But some of the greatest characters in fiction have invented names: Bilbo Baggins, Voldemort, Professor Snape. But even in straight fiction you have some leeway. Charles Dickens invented some wonderful, larger-than-life names for his characters that have stood the test of time. My tip – if you’d like to invent a name – is either create an invented name for just one character (the hero or anti-hero) or for all the characters, but try to avoid a mish mash throughout.
Choosing characters’ names can be one of the fun parts of writing, but it is quite important to get it right straight from the start. I’ve had to change a character’s name halfway through writing the novel, and it was disorientating and even a little upsetting – like changing the name of a child!
Another excellent topic in our Round Robin series. If you’d like to find out what the other authors have to say on this subject, please click on the links below!
And if you’re a writer, how do you go about choosing your characters’ names? Are there any characters’ names in other fiction that you really love and have stuck with you?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2i7
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com
Anne Stenhouse https://goo.gl/h4DtKv