Friday, September 11, 2009

What's in a name?

Naming characters is one of the hardest things I have to do as a writer, because not only do I have to like the name, but it also has to fit the personality of the character. Plus, I'm indecisive...and in case you haven't noticed, there's only about a zillion names out there to choose from.

So how do I do it?'s not really an exact science. I pick my names for a reason, and it's usually because the name says something to me about the character. Which means I spend quite a lot of time looking up meanings in Baby Name Books (and yes, the person always asks me if I'm pregnant when I buy those books...I hate that). If that doesn't help, I scour other languages (no really...I do). has a language translator, and I've been known to spend hours taking adjectives and translating them into different languages to see if there's anything that sounds like a name. If that still doesn't help I'll turn to other literary works for characters that remind me of mine and see if I want to steal any part of their name. And if all else fails...I simply make something up. It's a very time consuming, annoying process (especially considering how many characters I've had to name) and I hate it. But it's important, so I do it.

Now, did you notice what I don't do?

I don't name my characters after my friends or family (sorry guys). And if I happen to use your name, or any variation thereof, I can assure you it has nothing to do with you. Why? Well...because it would open this huge, messy can of worms I'd rather not deal with. Because if I name a character after you, you're probably going to assume I've also based that character off of you (another thing I don't do, by the way), and then you're not going to be too happy with me when I let bad things happen to that character (and believe me, I show my characters no mercy). So it's just so much easier to keep your name out of it. There's only one character in my book that's been named and based off anything real, and he's a big fluffy cat named Marty. Everything else comes entirely from my imagination.

So why do I bring this up?

Well...because I'm finally getting close to finishing up my rough draft, which means in the next few months I might be letting some of you read it, and I don't want there to be any confusion. If you don't see your name in there (which most of you won't) please don't be offended. It's not because I don't like you or your name. It's because I just don't do that. And if you do see a tiny part of your name, or the name of your brother/sister/pet or even your imaginary friend, it's just a coincidence. It's not a compliment. It's not an insult. It simply is what it is: a name that fit the character. Please don't read anything more into it than that.

In fact, I'll make you a deal. I won't name any of my characters after you, and in return, you don't have to name any of your children after me. How does that sound?

Sounds fair to me. :)


  1. Sounds fair to me! How about backward names: such as Annor Or Nonnahs or Semaj.

  2. I've considered that. But only if the name fit and I was trying to disguise it.


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