Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looks like it'll be a rainy day here in Blossomland. Just before the kids got on the bus a black wall cloud rolled over us, and now it's raining pretty hard. Doesn't look like it'll be severe, just dark, warm, windy and wet. My favorite kind of day. It will make it extra hard to concentrate, though, especially since I stayed up too late last night talking to my brother on the phone.

A couple more readers got back to me with notes on my synopsis, so that makes four, which is a good number to start my rewrite. The response has been mostly positive, but there are a few places that all four readers pegged, so that's where I'll start. I love how each reader brings his/her own personality to the critique--like, the mysterious M., language dude extraordinaire, told me the meanings of some of the names I'd chosen for my characters, and the meanings sort of fit the characters' roles. To answer his question, the fit of the names is accidental--except for the name of the main character, Drina, which in Spanish is short for Alexandrina and means "defender of mankind," I assume because of Alexander the Great. "Defender of Mankind" is a good title for Drina Ramirez.

I was right, it's hard to concentrate. I think I'll have to take my work in small sips today, and that work is: to continue where I left off editing yesterday; start rewriting the synopsis; housework; pay bills; other miscellaneous things I can fit in here and there. I have a feeling the housework will be the easiest of those tasks; I don't have to think to load the dishwasher.

So here's a question for you: Do you do anything special to pick names for your characters? Do the names come immediately, or do you have to study and research and pick just the right one?

{ 10 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I love figuring out names for my characters. In fact, sometimes I take way too long playing with that aspect of a story. In my YA fantasy novel I wanted the names to have meanings suited to their roles as well as certain cultural associations. I have several Baby Name books that I use but these days, it's all on the internet so I rarely consult the books.

  2. Names always come immediately to me and I know when they're right.

  3. I pick names several ways. Primarily, though, I consider the character of the character and go from there. For example, when I was working on a vampire romance where the protagonist is a gal who's a pragmatic, stubborn engineer punster, I decided a rather blah name would be best, so I chose Ellie. In some of the sf/fantasy stories, I have an alternate world, and I take a word that fits the character and modify it. In one case, I came up with Kanda because it was similar to the name of a knife, and she's a lethal gal! Or I might take an actual name and play around with it until it becomes something interesting that I like.

    Many of the favorite ones, though, come to me from out of the blue, like the Beauregrave. The Beauregrave is a faerie being, and he's my favorite character, ever. I got stuck trying to write the novel, so it's on the back burner while I learn a bit more about not writing myself into a corner, lol. Anyhow, in his case, the name sets the tone for the story. I suppose you could say that I didn't get the name out of the blue, though; because, thinking about it, I recall that I considered what foreign words might make a scary/creepy feel, and 'grave' and 'beau' seemed a nice contrast. But it was still sort of out of the blue that it fell together for me.

  4. I've never given much thought to names. If I wrote something with a distinct cultural spin, I'd probably research that and try to find something decent. I don't put a lot of effort into my names. Sometimes I'll ask Fal for some, because she does the baby name thing and is really into that sort of research and information.

    If they don't come to me right away, or they don't seem quite right, I just pick another one. I'm sucky like that.

  5. I get a little of both - some names just come to me, and some names require a long list and a little meditation.

    Depending on the genre, I love the idea of names that fit the character's function in the story. ie:a gynecologist named Dr. Fealy, a strong-jawed tough guy named Hardcastle, or a butcher with the last name Cleaver. Maybe it's just me, though.

  6. I'm a little like Bryce in that sometimes they come to me and sometimes, once I get more into a story, I end up thinking the name isn't quite right. Or I decide to make names a tribute to those people or authors who inspired the story. I enjoy finding little nods and winks like that in the things I read or watch, and I like to do the same.

    The book I'm writing right now has had all but one of its main characters experience a name change. That's because, when the story began, I wasn't sure exactly what the plot or the feel was going to be. Once the story took on a more satirical bent, I decided that the character's names had to reflect that and have at least some inference to previous vampire stories or symbolism. My main character is Louis Cross, which is more for the sake of irony. His girlfriend is Seraphina Rice (Seraphina means "fiery one," but I liked the spelling because "Sera" reminds me of "serum" and she is also a vampire). Rice should be a pretty obvious tip of the hat to Anne Rice.

    In my last book, The Last Supper, the last name of the hero, John Welland, came about because I wanted to pay tribute to George Orwell. Another character in the story was named William Clayton, after the authors of Logan's Run, the story which partly inspired the main plot/theme of the book.

  7. Way back when I fancied that I wanted to be a writer, I used baby name books to come up with names for characters. There's a few websites that are halfway decent out there now, too. If you need one I can help.

    Now I just use them for things like the Sims. I love it because I can use any whacked out name I want because it's just a Sim and who cares? Sometimes I'll blend the names of the parent Sims to come up with a name for a child Sim. Like - Sims who came with the game, Don & Nina, I married them and named their daughter Donina. Yeah, I know, I'm just all clever like that. *snort*

  8. I usually choose a name which makes me feel a certain way, the way the character should make me feel. It's always nice to have some hidden meaning only I would know. I usually have to think about it some, but make the final decision with my gut. Thanks for all your input!

  9. Language dude extraordinaire, eh? I don't know about that, but thank you for the compliment.

    I don't put a lot of thought into my character names at first--I just go with whatever sounds okay at the time so I can continue working. Later, I'll go back through and pick names a bit more deliberately, but the decision still comes down to a gut reaction. I'm not above picking a name out of some historical or literary connection that ties in with a particular thematic concern in the story, but I like to limit that to non-character or minor character names.



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