Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: How important is a character’s name? How do you choose just the right one? Do you have any particular places you turn to when searching for the perfect moniker?
Jamie Wallace: I think a lot about characters’ names. I like finding names that have historical or mythical meanings, but my choices are also influenced by the way a name sounds as well as my own personal experience (if any) with that name.
I tend to prefer unique names. The main characters in the middle grade fantasy I’ve been dallying with for a few years are named “Wren” and “Finn.” I struggle, however, with fantasy names in general. For the most part, I feel like all the fantasy names I come up with sound super cheesy.
Lisa J. Jackson: Names are a challenge at times. Sometimes I’ll start a story with one name for a character and then get stuck and realize the name isn’t “right”. I’ve use the name generator tool at times, but mostly I let the characters tell me what names they want.
Years ago, I would use gender-neutral names a lot. For instance, Alex for Alexandra, or Joe for Josephine, as I thought it was important to have the character come across ‘strong’ and ‘masculine’ yet have a small twist be that the character is actually an independent woman.
I do sometimes choose names based on people I knew/know, particularly if I want to use a lot of their traits. I do have favorite names, of course, and sometimes it’s difficult NOT to use them – but it can be confusing to have ‘Dave’ be in multiple stories when he’s not at all the same character. Know what I mean?
When writing childrens’ stories, coming up with names hasn’t generally been a problem. Most are nicknames, or at least simple words that kids can pronounce and relate to. No multisyllable words, or variations of ‘standard’ names — for instance, I would use Jane instead of Jayn or Jayne or Jaayn.
Julie Hennrikus: This is such a great question. Names are so much harder than I expected. My Clock Shop Mystery series has a core cast of characters. Then each book has to have their own characters. You would be amazed at how easy it is to write an entire novel without realizing that you have three characters with the same initials. Yeesh. I have one character who bid on naming rights in a Malice Domestic auction. I’ve also used the web to find names with specific meanings. I have a friend who recently lost her mother–I named a character for her. When desperate, I post on Facebook for suggestions.