Welcome to The Big Reveal.
I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at all levels, from unagented to published, and every week I will have a new question for them. Some of these ladies have helped me with my own work, or given me advice on blogging or writing, so check out their blogs and see what they’re about.
What’s your process for naming characters?
Liesl Shurtliff, Pre-published author
I use name databases. I’m big into name meanings and origins, particularly since the world in which I’ve set my story believes a name determines your destiny. The only name I (sort of) made up is my title character, Rump, but that’s just short for Rumpelstiltskin, so it came rather naturally.
Mindy McGinnis, Pre-published author
Honestly, I just close my eyes and have them tell me what their name is.
Amy Sonnichsen, Agented author
My names come to me with the characters. They don’t have names I would pick for my children or anything like that. For minor characters I’ll sometimes go through a baby names list to get inspiration, but that’s rare. The only name I’ve ever really struggled with was for my main character’s mother. I’m still not completely satisfied with her name!
Melodie Wright, Agented author
I have no idea. They just pop into my head. I don’t always keep the first one that comes, though. Names are something that evolve during revision – generally they’re just a placeholder in the first draft. Then I rename as the character grows and solidifies in my mind. I’ve never created a name, but a character in my current MS is called Tiffin, after the afternoon English tea. He’s called Fin for short.
Ryann Kerekes, Agented author
Such a GOOD question!! I keep a database of character names, it contains male and female character first names and last names too. Naming is hard for me, and I’ve been known to change their names 2-3 times before landing on something that works. I tend to like names that you don’t hear every day for my main characters and names that can have a nickname or can be shortened for my female characters.
Ben Spendlove, Un-agented author
The same process I use to pick names for actual people: baby name databases. (Except with names for actual people—meaning children—my wife has to agree.) Sometimes I’ll narrow it down by country of origin or specific keywords in the meaning. Usually, I just look through page after page until something jumps out at me. I put them all on the list and refine it until I have the right name. I almost always use real names. For my first novel, I made up a few. (Like Aersh, an alteration of Earth. Clever, eh?)
Cassie Mae, Un-agented author
I jab at a letter and then come up with a name from it. I come up with my own names all the time.
Stacie Stokes, Un-agented author
Sometimes I know them right off the bat, and other times I have to put more thought into them. I try not to pick super unusual names unless the character is unusual enough to warrant it, or if the name plays a role in the story. For characters I want readers to perceive as “normal” I’ve consulted the top 100 list of baby names for the year they would have been born, to keep it consistent with what my potential readers might experience among their classmates.
Me (Suzi) Un-agented author
A lot of names just pop into my head. But when I need help I go to the Social Security names website where you can see the top 1000 names of any given year. It’s great when you need names from older generations too. Sometimes I’ll go a ways into the story and change a name because it’s not feeling right, but normally once I get a name, I stick with it.
Joelene B. Perry, Published author
My husband laughed as he read this over my shoulder, because he names almost all my secondary characters. I’ll just shout out – man’s name, 35, a-hole. And Mike will spout a name back. My main characters usually name themselves. I did just finish a joint project with my friend, Kelley, where I’d named the MC, but she didn’t feel like a “Penny” until halfway through the book. That was bizarre.
So how do you choose your character names?