Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hi, My Name is...

My characters usually introduce themselves to me by name. Thankfully! I get a little bummed out when I get an idea and don't have a character name in my head. This happens more for short stories than novels though. Usually, I get a character in my head and then the plot develops from there.


With Touch of Death, Jodi Marshall just came to me. She was unlike any other MC I'd written and I really loved her. The funny thing is, I've only met a few Jodi's in my life, so I have no idea why that name came to mind. And Marshall? No clue. 


For another manuscript, which I'll talk about more soon, my MC is Sam. For a while, I'd wanted a name that was shortened and could be male or female. With this MS, Sam came to me, and I loved her name immediately.


Meeting characters is like meeting new friends to me. They come complete with names. I felt the same way when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I knew her name was Ayla. There was no doubt.  It was almost like she introduced herself to me just like my characters do.


What about you? Do you name your characters or do they name themselves?

77 comments:

  1. My characters definitely name themselves. Often, I don't even like the name. Micajah, for instance? He insisted that was his name, just so he could get the nickname of Cage. Evangeline? I told her that was too close to Evie, the protagonist from another one of my books. She didn't care. And the main character from my current WIP is Jax, short for Jaxon. I didn't pick that either. Why would I?

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    1. LOL. I know what you mean. I wanted to name Jodi something else (she was the one I wanted to have the boy/girl tough name) but she insisted she was Jodi Marshall and that was that. I really do prefer it that way though. And now that the book is finished, I can't imagine her as anyone but Jodi, so I guess she was right. ;)

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  2. I go through names books, just like when I named my sons, and try to pick things that relate to the characters or whose origins relate in some way.

    Love the name Ayla, by the way.

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    1. Thanks. I love the name too. I'm glad she picked it. ;)

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  3. I'm I'm the same position as Dianne on this one, my characters typically name themselves - whether I like the name or not. Every so often I'll get stuck, and the character just won't tell me there name, so I'll flip through a baby name book, or even the local paper until a name pops out at me.

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    1. I've used baby name books and sights for last names, but not first.

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  4. Sarah Negovetich has left a new comment on your post "Hi, My Name is...":

    My characters never give up their names. For my current WIP I needed names that evoked a time period so I did a google search for baby names in that decade. I don't know how people wrote before the internet. :)

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    1. Sarah, your post came to my email. I don't know why this keeps happening.

      Anyway, your characters never name themselves? Hmm. Thank goodness for the internet. :)

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    2. Baby name sites are a great idea. I've only done that when the character is non-European in origin. Otherwise, I use generic names unless there's a need for a character to have an evocative name...I sweat over everything else, but this is one writing area I approach casually. At least there's one!

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    3. LOL, Helen. I have had to research last names if I needed them to be of a certain origin, too.

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  5. Some times the names come to me right away. Other times, I struggle to find a name that fits. But most of my stories or novels only start with a title.

    Once I have an awesome title, the rest comes in time. :)

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    1. Oh, I wish I could start with a title. That's usually the last thing I come up with. I'm not great with titles. Thank goodness for my agent being amazing with them. ;)

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  6. I've let my son name a few of my characters. He always comes up with something when I say, "I need a name for a 12 year old boy" or something similar. Other names have stuck with me until I figured out who they belonged to.

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    1. That's nice that you have someone to help you name them. :)

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    2. Wow, Lily, you're brave! Ever since our son insisted in calling our cat "Girly" I haven't wanted to relinquish the naming rights!

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  7. My characters usually name themselves too, or I try to pick names that are more classic rather than trendy or new - that way there's less of a chance people will hate them instantly.

    As for last names? I'm Irish, so I always pick Irish last names. Usually I scan the Irish rugby or football team player list and pick one I like. Thanks, interwebs!

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    1. I'm Irish, too--along with 5 other nationalities. LOL.

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  8. Sometimes I hear a person's name that I like, so I right it down and use it when it fits a character. Other times I search baby books (meanings of names sometimes play a part) and phone books (especially when trying to come up with last names).

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    1. Ooh, the phone book! Why didn't I think of that. I struggle with last names of minor character sometimes. Thanks!

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  9. Sometimes when I'm really lucky, the character names come with the character automatically. But most times, I know what I want the character to do, but have to go into my character names file and choose one that will fit. I tend to like unusual names so I have to be careful with that. A few times, I've actually started the entire story with a character name I come up with and didn't even know what the story would be about yet. I do that with titles too.

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    1. LOL. I start a lot of short stories off the same way.

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  10. Names are really hard for me. Even with my girls, we didn't decide until the last minute both times. I need a better system LOL

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    1. LOL. As long as you come up with them in the end, you're good. ;)

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  11. When writing a PB, the sound of the name fitting with the cadence of the words is very important. For chapter books and MG, meaning of the name and its cultural 'aura' comes in.
    And when a story is more of a fable or archetype, the names need to convey the theme and their place in it. Biblical names all do, (in Hebrew) so we have a great example.
    And then, of course, the character tells you...

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  12. Baby name book separated by cultures :) They have the name meaning and origin in there. The name definitely creates a personality :)

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    1. Yes, I've used this for characters that are from specific cultures.

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  13. The character's name come well after I start writing. I worry about this much later in the process. For me, it's more like I create a name and then see if it speaks to my character. If it doesn't, I find another one. I have a list of names- if I'm walking around and come across a noun I like, I write it down.

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    1. I should keep a list like this, but I wonder if my characters will ever let me name them. LOL

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  14. My character rarely names themself. I have a story idea marinating where I know the character's names, but that is really really rare. I usually have to mess around, get a feel for who they are and match a name to them. Then find and replace in my WIP because it takes me that long :)

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    1. LOL. Good old find and replace. I once changed a character after writing a manuscript and I used that function to do it.

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  15. I thought of naming my female MC Helen, though through most of the book I use her last name Devon, but it didn't seem to fit. I decided early on to go with Meredith.

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    1. Another reason why I like it when my characters come to me already named. :)

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  16. Two of my three female MC's have named themselves, first names, that is, then I've had to come up with a last name that sounded right with the first name. My WIP MC told me she was French-Creole and her name was Gabriela, so I had to go to French names on the Internet to find names for her parents and a last name. My historical novel was totally different...MC is a boy, and all the names including those of slaves had to correct for the 1860's time period. However, I enjoy finding names I like, and I have a list of my favorite ones, including those that were popular during certain eras.

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    1. I had to look up French names for one of my books too! It is fun to research stuff like that. I bet your historical novel research was really interesting.

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  17. Yes, it's funny how those names just pop in your head, and you say "What? Huh?" and they're like "Yeah, get over it. That's me!"
    Auden Fleury from Fireseed One came in like that. I was thinking, really? That's so pretentious and it'll be hard for readers to pronounce, but Audun was already firm. "That's me, and you just have to write me like I am."

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. Don't even try changing their names on them. They won't let you. LOL

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  18. I kind of don't think about names too much, I almost meditate over who the character is then the name comes to me. I've had to change a few names after Ive started because the character turns out to be someone different to who I thought they were. :)
    Xx

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    1. I had to change names in one manuscript because I made the mistake of trying to characters instead of letting them tell me who they are. I learned a lot from that. I never try to create characters anymore. I let them introduce themselves to me instead.

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    2. Oh, my computer was acting up. That's what I get for using the old laptop instead of the new one. I meant to say,
      I made the mistake of trying to CREATE characters instead of letting them tell me who they are.

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  19. In my novel,I am working on now, I use my past relatives or peoples name that remind me of my character. But I keep in mind popular names of the age of the characters. Does that make since?

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  20. I can't not begin until I have the name.. sometimes it arrives at the writing party before both the story and I, other times the story sits inside of Starbucks nursing a full-fat latte waiting for the name. AFter, it's wine all around followed by tapping fingers and lots of walking.

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    1. Yeah, I can't start writing if I don't have a name. There's no connection to the MC if I don't know what to call him or her.

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  21. My characters usually tell me their names. Sometimes a name will change, but I like to have it at the very beginning of the story.

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  22. On my Wordpress blog I have a page called Writer's Helps. On there I have a few links to sites that help with coming up with character names. I won't put my blog addy here unless you want it.

    I have found that usually the character gives me his or her name. Sometimes just the first name, but one in particular gave me his last name only. I really questioned that one because it seems so odd, but .. nope! That's his name. And it works out well because it's kind of hard to say and the children in the story give him a funny nickname they could pronounce better.
    Best to listen to the characters! :)

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    1. I don't mind people posting links here, Lynn. Not a problem at all. Feel free. :)

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    2. Okay, thanks Kelly. You can find my Writers' Helps page here: www.lynnadavidson.com :) I keep adding to it.

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    3. Thanks! I visited your blog and tried to comment on your book review, but it wouldn't let me for some reason. :(

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    4. Kelly, I'm sorry you couldn't comment. I checked all my settings and can see no reason for that. :( I'd like for you to be able to enter the draw ... All I can suggest is .. try again?

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    5. Yay! So glad it worked this time. Thanks for persisting. :)

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  23. Kelly,

    You've been tagged! http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/2012/06/do-you-remember-playing-tag-as-child.html

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  24. Ha. My characters don't always tell me their names, mainly because they like to be difficult. I usually get "It starts with..." or "It sounds like..." then I whip out my handy baby name book and read until they yell "Stop! That's it. But not spelled that way..." :)

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    1. Ah, you like different spellings. They can be cool as long as I can figure out what the name is (how it's pronounced).

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  25. Characters usually come first for me before the idea. I love finding a story for my characters, but sometimes I'm a little confused by the process. I feel a bit lost, having a great character in mind with a name, but without a story to go with him/her. They usually come complete with a name, but I've tweaked before or thrown names out entirely. Then I tag the characters with something else, amid much protesting on their part, but eventually they settle into it.

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    1. Wow, you can win in an argument with your characters? I've never won. I just go with what they want since it's their stories on the line.

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  26. My characters always come to me with names too. It's always really difficult if I have to go back and change one later because maybe I have 5 boy characters with names that start with M. They don't like it one bit....

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    1. Oh, yes, I've been there. That does pose a problem.

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  27. I'll have characters in mind, but then I go through baby name websites to find the right fit for them.

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    1. I'm really glad my characters come named, even when I'm not all that crazy about their names. It saves me time. :)

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  28. You not only have a hard-working muse, but she gives you names as well? I struggle for days coming up with the 'right' name ... just like I struggle for months to come up with a 'worthy' plot. I need a new muse!!

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    1. LOL. You know I never think of it as having a muse either. I think of it as meeting exciting new people. My characters just introduce themselves to me. It's wonderful. I couldn't write without them.

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  29. They come to me, too, then I explore around a bit more with other names. Sometimes I'd have to change them, but recently, the original ones stick to the end. Naming is the fun part of characterization, next to appearance and habits and maybe favourite food!

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    1. See, I never feel like any of that is up to me. My characters just appear in my mind and I write down what they look like.

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  30. Though I try desperately to name my own characters (I actually have notebook pages full of names I've made up), they usually end up naming themselves. Sometimes when that happens, the name sounds so good that I think it is already a popular name, and so I search all over Google looking for where I heard the name before. It's always a good feeling when I can't find the name anywhere.

    Whenever a name doesn't come to me like that, I usually change it several times throughout the story before I come across a name that sticks. Then I have to make sure I go back and change it each time the name is mentioned

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    1. Oh, that's tough. I hope the next name comes easily to you so you don't have to go back and change it.

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  31. Mine always name themselves. Just like new pets, they choose a name that fits their life or personality.

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  32. Mine tend to name themselves. Sometimes they're vague, like "it starts with..." while other times they just mention the name spot on.

    For my current WIPs, one has a main character named Lyssandra, but everyone ends up calling her Lyssa. She introduced both the name and the nickname to me. Then in another one of my WIPs, the main character is called Kaelyn, and it fits perfectly. Another one of my main characters is Riley. I tried that manuscript with the name 'Meredith' first, but it didn't ring true. Then I changed the name (she kept insisting she was called Riley), and tada, it clicked!

    I have this new, albeit vague idea for a story in my mind. As soon as I came up with the idea, a main character popped up and introduced herself as Meghan. Looking at the theme of the story, the name fits perfectly.

    I don't know about you, but I don't just get names. I get people, with a name, a personality, hair color, eye color and everything. If I'm lucky enough, I get this for all characters in my manuscripts, or at least the most prominent ones. This sometimes leads to disaster. For instance, Kaelyn, the MC in my WIP 'Ghostslayer' is sarcastic all the freaking time. She has so much unresolved anger issues with this other character, and no matter how much I tell them to shut up, they keep on bickering in my head, and every word I write down that involves their dialogue, ends up being sarcastic or cynical. Sometimes I wish I could keep them in check!

    I've learnt by now that if I come up with a plot, but there are no characters introducing themselves, that I should move on. That's obviously not the story I should be working on then. It sometimes happens that the characters start introducing themselves later on - months later even - and then I know it's time to start working on it.

    Sorry for the extremely long comment! I thought your post was very inspiring!

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    1. Never apologize for a long comment. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I agree that unless I have a fully developed character in mind, I can't start writing. I love stories with very real characters.

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  33. I name them, but the name has to fit the character. I have spent days coming up with a name I think works.

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    1. See, I'm glad I don't have to do that because I think I might be really bad at naming my characters. LOL

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