Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Names are my favorite.

More precisely, naming characters is one of my favorite "in process" points of telling a story.

The other day on twitter one of my favorite, dry-humored Agents mentioned a query he received with characters whose names made them sound "insufferable".

Naturally, I chuckled a wee bit, but then remembered (as I often do when that Agent tweets) that I would be mortified if I recognized my work as something they commented on.

What if the Agent said (if it were my query), "MG character names in this query: Bianca, Scarlett, and Oliver. If these were people in real life, I think they would be insufferable to be around."

*The names the Agent commented on were Dylan, Soren, and Thea. Which - to me - are perfectly acceptable names*

I put a lot of work into naming my characters. My main character's names fell into my head rather easily, but my supporting cast? Ha! I had to discover who everyone was, and then I had to really observe what they looked like in my mind's eye. One character (one of my favorites) her first name changed so many times I was still debating it on my fifth draft.
I take into account where they were born, their socio-economic standing, their appearance, and most importantly what their name means.

My most often used resource is

I put clues into my character names; clues about who they are, or who they're going to become. If not clues then allusions to something else (often a favorite television character with the same name). Otherwise I just have a giant notebook of names that sound really cool to me.

My Bianca could never be a Whitney. My Scarlett could never be a Poppy. Those are acceptable names, of course, but because of their personalities and appearance the names wouldn't ring true to the reader.
Oliver could never be a Trevor, Paul, or Peter, but he could be an Ethan - which became his middle name. He was almost Andrew...but the meaning of the name Oliver sealed the deal. It is perfect, and hints at the future of his character.

I've read a couple of MG/YA book series' where the names of the characters are a struggle for me to remember.
(People who know me will note that I have a near flawless memory.)
Names - for me - indicate a closeness with a character. When I recall those stories with the forgettable character names I can still remember the plot of the story, or names of certain characters. Times like that I think the author and I were in synch. The characters were a vehicle for the author's plot (which I remember clearly) but no more; the character names I actually remember I think the author must have really enjoyed writing.
How close an author is with their characters and how they view their characters is hidden in the name.

How do you name your characters? Is it an arduous process? Is it in-depth? Do you find that your character's names come to you easily? - (I envy you!)

Until we meet again!

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