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.
Today’s question is: Where do you come up with names for characters in your writing?
Wendy Thomas: I don’t write a lot of fiction but when I do I agonize over my characters’ names (much like I did when it came time to name each of my 6 kids.) I tend to like unusual and “old time” names and I’ve been known to pull out maps to peruse names of roads.
In one particular piece of fiction that I did write, I used the name – Dunloggin as the protagonist’s name (I had read that story to my kids and they still ask me about Dunloggin.) Another character in that story (it was fairy tale-ish) was Knotweed.
I have yet to use any of my friends or family member’s names in my writing (unless of course it is non-fiction memoir writing.) In that instance I think it would be too difficult to divorce the character from the actual person. – Although I do know of a writer who patterned a character in her book after someone who had bullied her son when he was young. The author ended up having a very satisfying demise for that particular character.
Deborah Lee Luskin: I read names wherever they appear – graduating seniors, phone books, gravestones – and keep lists, often mixing first and last names. Sometimes, I use historical names, like Ransom Blood, because you just can’t make up anything that good. Other times, I do seek revenge (as in the story Wendy tells above), but in a way that’s not obvious to anyone but me, like changing a Margaret to Maggie or a Smith to Smythe. But as is so often the case with fiction, the characters usually tell me their names, just as they tell me what they’re going to do.
Jamie Wallace: Names are one story element that seems to come to me out of the ether. Most of the character names I’ve come up with have simply “occurred” to me as though I knew them all along, but had forgotten them. I like to imagine that I actually did know them – that somewhere in a past life, different dimension, or alternate reality I actually knew these characters … that I’m not making them up as much as I am remembering them from another incarnation. How amazing would it be if storytellers were actually conduits between different times and realities – not fabricating, but channeling? Hmmm … perhaps there’s a story in that idea. 😉
Lisa J. Jackson: Jamie and I are sharing a similar wavelength. Most times the character names ‘come to me’ when they need to. When I first started writing, I had neutral gender names for female leads – Sam for Samantha, Jo for Josephine, Max for Maxine. There have been times when I’ve written stories and something has felt – off – and after letting the stories sit, on occasion it’s been because of the character name. The right character name is so important in my stories.