Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How do you select the names of your characters?

Debra Lewis and Kelly Spencer asked: How do you select the names of your characters?
Good question. It really depends on the character. I choose names based on personality, age, and nationality. For basic American characters, I just name them whatever seems right. I may (probably will) change my mind and go with a different name before I publish it. I may feel I have too many people with names starting in M. Or the names are too similar in cadence, such as Harry, Larry, and Gary. That can be confusing to a reader. So I’ll go back and change Harry to Hank. It still fits the age group and style of the name, but sounds different.
Sometimes the character just has a name. When I change the name for my reasons I feel guilty. For example in The Crossfire of Revenge the youth pastor’s name is Pastor Tim. Period. That’s his name. I know this guy in real life. When I’d completely finished the book, I changed his name from Tim to Tom. Mainly because I didn’t want people to think it was a true story about Tim… though he was the inspiration behind the character.
If it’s a really important character with a major role (especially an evil role), or a deceptive character, I’ll refer to Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. This gives a breakdown of names by country of origin and what the name means. For a character who will seem good but is actually evil, I’ll choose a name meaning “trustworthy” or “noble.” If the character is immediately evil and remains so, I’ll choose a name meaning “dark” or “deceptive.” Sometimes it will be based on modern perceptions, such as Adolph, or Damien, which are both considered dark names. Sadly, Adolph is actually a cool name meaning “noble wolf,” and Damien means “untamed.”
Otherwise I just surf the web, especially if I’m looking for a teen name of let’s say an Italian girl: Sofia, Emma, Chiara, Aurora…. Or maybe I’m looking for a cool upbeat name for a teen boy? I’ll search teen movie stars: Keegan, Skylar, Jake, Penn…. 
There’s lots of different ways to choose a name, but each name is important. As I said earlier, I may change a character’s name a couple of times. My name for example has very specific meanings. Heidi means “female warrior,” Schussman means “sharp shooter” (it was the ancient title for the dude who sat up in the turret and shot arrows down at the bad guys trying to invade his master’s castle), and Gilbert means “shield.” So I’m a female warrior, sharp shooter, with a shield! Hmmm… now maybe you understand why I write espionage :)

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