Tuesday, August 18, 2009

'My Name Is...'

How do we name our characters? Do we plan to use certain names? Or do they just come to us as we're writing?

I've been asked this question frequently over the past few weeks, and sometimes as I start to write, the characters will 'tell' me their name, or I'll think of a name not used lately and build a character around it.

Some names instantly bring a character to life, as strong Alpha-types: Jake. Nick. Josh. Blake.
Some authors go for the exotic names, Dakota, Savannah, Taylor, or even exotic spellings. Remember Krystyna? Caryn? Even Skylar. I always thought it was spelled 'Schuyler'. And in the mid-to-late '80's, 'Skye' was popular.

Sometimes if I'm hunting for a name, I'll use either my HS yearbook or the phone book, and flip to a random page. Mostly I do this if I'm looking for a last name! And time periods have to be taken into account. For instance, if I'm writing about a woman my age or slightly younger, I don't think I'd use anything too exotic, unless the backstory involved some creative names. Kathy, Tracy, and Tammy were popular girls' names, as were Brian, Matt, and John. In my oldest son's class, Kyle is popular, as is Ashley. My daughter has the Dakota, Savanna, and Alicias. My youngest has an over-abundance of Lindsays, Taylors, Ravens, Isabelles, Brooklynes, and creative spellings: Ashleigh, Emilee, Krysten, Bethanee.

In a few of the wips I've had swirling in my brain, I've had the names Misty, Krystal, Cara, and Thalia announce their names, and Misty even revealed the fact her full name is Kendra Misty Snow, which brought the topic of parents with a strange sense of humor: Naming their children Rocky Walls, Justin Case, Rainey Dayze...you get the picture.

But I also have some traditional names tossed in there. Tammy. Katherine. Cassandra. Kelly. Brian. Kevin. Joshua. Mike. Joe.

How about you? Do you like the traditional names, or do you like the more unusual ones in your reading or writing? Any names you've discovered an over-abundance of either in your kids' classrooms or in the books currently being read? I'll admit; I've discovered I've used Mike several times, but then, that's my dad's name. And as three of those particular books he shows up in aren't published yet, there's still time to edit the names.

Today on the To-Do List:
-Meeting with MIL's caretakers, to discuss tranfer arrangements to new facility
-Photography studio, to pay for football pictures and make appointment for Senior Pics
-Packing D back to work
-'Meet the Teacher' night at W's school. Which means no Laptop Society for me tonight. Bummer...one of our members is wanting help on a story he's written the past week! There's even a character named 'Ms Daniels', ha ha!


Unknown said...

I like to use common names when I can. For the most part I have the names before I start writing. Only once has a heroine declared she didn't like her name and chose her own halfway through the story. It was strange. One sentence I'm calling her Amber(before it became my pen name) and next thing I know I'm writing Haley. It stuck!

Anny Cook said...

Jennifer in all it's spellings... tons of them everywhere.

I generally let my characters name themselves.

Stephanie said...

Depends...sometimes I want a name that was popular to when the character was born...I'll do a search for the top 100 baby names for a certain year...did this for one of my novels. Sometimes I want something with a bit of ethnicity to it..again I search baby name websites...and search till something jumps at me. Other times I pick a name that sounds like the personality of the character. My MC in novel #2 is Lexi...she's sassy and sexy.....but her full name is very traditional...Alexandra...that's what her mother calls her. And then sometimes I use the baby names I wasn't able to use for my own kids!! LOL!! Names that hubby rejected: Preston, Olivia, Avery....and then a name we loved but didn't get to use: Mia....if my son was a girl, he would have been Mia!

Kenzie Michaels said...

LOL Stephanie:) I used one of my favorite names in my 3rd book, and then turned around named my first son K (who used to ask me why I named him after one of my characters...I said as a model of how NOT to behave, hee hee:)

We never agreed on a girl's name for him, and couldn't agree on a boy's name when S came along. When we were surprised with W, hubby put his foot down on the name, but I was so certain I was having another girl, I called 'him' Jessie all the way up until 'he' popped out! Took me a week to get used to the new name:)

Mia Watts said...

Somewhere in the middle. Not common but not extreme either.

Carol Preflatish said...

I like to use the phone books to grab either a first or last name from. Right now, I am trying to come up with a name for a police detective in Boston. It has to be just the perfect name. I've spent hours searching web pages for historic names.

Unknown said...

I love the subject of names.

For my real life kids, I wanted names for the first three that weren't extremely common but not weird, either. They ended up being Luke, Keith, and Monica. By the time the fourth came along we didn't both to avoid popular and used Stephanie and Stephen.

Originally I was going to name Luke "Lindsay" if he'd been a girl. Or "Holly". But hubby couldn't pronounce Lindsay and he absolutely refused to let me use "Holly". Fortunately he has no say in what I name my characters.

For my characters, it depends on the character and what's going on at the time and the type of story it is. If it's historical at all, or if I have an older character, I usually check the baby name lists for the most popular names for their generation. For a historical once I checked out online genealogy sites and came up with a lot of ones I wouldn't have thought of on my own.

Even though I have favorite names, I haven't used them all yet. I've used a lot of names I don't like as well because they fit the character or because told me their name. It happens sometimes (where they tell me their name) but not always.