Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Name Game

There's a thread in one of my Library Thing groups about how writers come up with their characters' names.

Creating character names was one of my favorite things to do when I first started writing stories. I was maybe 1o or 11, and I would fill my notebooks with long lists of girls' names, boys' names and last names, then have fun picking and choosing for my next (inevitably unfinished) story.

I still do the name list thing. Sometimes they're names of people I've met. Sometimes I come across a good name on the internet or in a book or magazine, and I add it to the list. (I found this one the other day: Rose Campion. How great is that?) I've even looked through the phone book before, but that can get tedious. For what it's worth, here's how I came up with my novel's character names.

I gave several of the guys in my book--all Southern, most of them frat-tastic--names like Bo, Walker, Ian and Heath. The sorority girls have names like Christin, Stella, Becca and Riley. My favorite is Calla Mae. I saw Calla on a professor directory board at my college and knew it would make the perfect double-named sorority princess.

The newspaper staff get slightly less-cutesy names: Evie, Megha, Stef, Lana, Daniel and Jeremy the redneck sports editor. (You knew I had to do that.)

The unsuitable love interest is suave Walker Kane. I know, I'm a little embarassed. I named him shortly after I watched Citizen Kane for the first time. I wanted Walker to have a lot of Charles Foster Kane's golden-boy-with-misplaced-ambition qualities. But I might have overstepped it a bit with the obvious name.

My leading man is a newspaper editor, so he gets a newspaper editor name. The problem is I'm afraid it's just too newspaper-y or too boring or too CIA-thriller: Jack Grant. Jack was the first name of a good-looking newspaper editor that a friend of mine worked under a few years ago at a paper in south Alabama. Grant comes from Lou Grant, who was the curmudgeonly boss on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," one of my favorite Nick-at-Nite shows from back in the day. I've tried to give Jack Grant some of Lou Grant's gruffness and intractability.

Main character is Lottie. In the early days of outlining my story, I couldn't decide what to name her, and that name popped into my head. I wasn't sold on it, but decided to go ahead and use it. I figured I could always swap it out later. Except that it's 65,000 words later and it's still here. Origionally I named her Lotte (still pronounced "Lottie") but my sister pointed out that most people reading it would think her name was pronounced "Lot". So I changed it. I also wanted a normal last name for Lottie. I've been using Griffin, but I'm not sold on that either.

If anyone has any ideas, or favorite names, I'm open to suggestions. I also want to avoid cheese and obviousness, so tell me honestly if any of the names fall squarely in those categories.

1 comment:

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

I've gotten in the habit lately of using online random name generators as kind of a brainstorming tool to picking out names. It keeps me from using the same familiar kinds of names over and over again. I have found it especially useful when I'm trying to create a character of a specific ethnic type.