December 9th, 2006



Since I've already been talking about name books and the like...

There are two methods I use for naming characters. One is the not-really-a-method-more-it-just-happens way, and the other is the list-making way.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have good character names handed to me. Take In Memory Of. I've always liked the name Cassie, but hadn't used it in a novel yet. When I visualized the character, she looked like a Cassie. And it was conveniently easy to shorten it into a tougher nickname for her to have switched to. Tim got his name from a Tim I knew of who vaguely inspired Tim's appearance. And Paige, well, it just popped into my head and it felt perfect. Voila!

The times I am not so lucky (Signi, for example, and my current project) I make lists. I skim through my name book, writing down any name that strikes me. Usually I write down separate lists for any main characters I'm aware of, as well as a list of other names I like the look of, for characters I haven't thought of yet. Then I go over the completed list and try to see if one stands out, or if any are definite "no"s. Eventually I whittle it down to one that works the best--though I may always change my mind later. I'm always thinking about things like--don't want to have two characters with similar sounding names.

For last names, I scan my bookshelves, and I have a list I made a while back of last names I liked from the cast and character lists of old movies (thanks to IMDB), divided by number of syllables, because I'm often looking for a particular rhythm. My main characters almost always have last names I've decided on ahead of time, even if it doesn't come up in the story. Minor characters only get them if they need them, and I make them up as I go along.