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 un-agented to published, and every week I will
have a new question for them.
How do you get your character names?
I’ve never made up a name. The first YA I wrote is filled with names of people I know, lol! (It’s a zombie book, I kill off my dad and my brothers, but I think they’ll be okay with it.) Now I often get online, or ask my sister for ideas, she loves talking names.
I scour baby name websites. Some names have meaning, others just sound good. I’ve also been known to give minor background characters names of friends or family members, but never the main ones.
The process varies. Sometime I look for meaning, sometimes I randomly pick, and sometimes I have an idea what I want, it’s just a matter of hunting down what exactly goes with what I’m feeling.
I do use a baby name generator a lot. It’s a great place to say what I like and find something like that. It also has the added benefit of having the banes’ meanings. I’ve created some of my own names for a fantasy I’m working on that needed names that weren’t overly familiar.
Julie Sondra Decker
I have a lot of different answers for this because it depends on the story, quite a lot. Most of my characters’ names just happen; I don’t actively look for them, but “hear” someone else in the story call them by a name that sounds right. Sometimes I have to ask them, in a way–set up a fake scenario and see if I can hear what they’d be called by. In stories that take place in the present time, I almost always pick names I don’t even particularly like. I’ll end up putting more thought into other related names if they suggest a person is from a certain culture (so I’d want to give them a matching last name, or consider what their parents might have named a sibling, etc.). I do not use symbolic names unless the character’s PARENTS had some reason for symbolism; it irks me when a story’s protagonist has a name that’s all too appropriate, unless it’s lampshaded somehow.
But I also write a lot of fantasy, and their invented culture figures in. When I created a subculture of fairies in one of my fairy tales, they sometimes had “normal” sounding names, but many of them had names influenced by nature. (Since these fairies live within a culture dominated by humans, I thought some of them would have names from human culture.) In other invented cultures in fantastical short stories, I literally just make up sounds that seem pleasing (but I don’t tend to use really absurd ones; I’m not one of those fantasy authors who sprinkles in accents and diaereses and apostrophes trying to spice it up). I have been known to use baby name books to search for inspiration, too–I’m very interested in naming trends.
Haha, usually I just sit down and go through names in my head until I find something that fits! Occasionally I will look up popular baby names from a certain year to fit the age of my character, though.
I always look through baby name sites and find the names that grab my attention the most.
The name usually comes to me with the character. Or at least a letter, and then I’ll try names that begin with that letter until something fits.
How do you get your characters names?