Showing posts with label naming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label naming. Show all posts

Friday, March 22

5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names

5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names
One thing I've always envied about J.K. Rowling is her ability to create awesome character names.

Well, that, and her wildly successful stories, but that's a post for another time.

Naming Characters

I have trouble naming characters.

I'll either fall in love with a name that everyone else on the planet hates with a burning passion or I won't be able to think of anything.

And so it was with great interest I read How to Name Your Characters by The Magic Violinist (and with a name like that how could I not be intrigued).

Before we get into naming, though, we need to ask: What are we looking for in a name? What characteristics must it have? TMV writes:

a. The name "needs to be unique".
b. The name needs to be memorable.
c. Your readers--and you, if you narrate the audiobook--need to be able to pronounce it.

One of my all-time favorite names is "Albus Dumbledore" from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. "Rubeus Hagrid" is pretty great too.

Oh, and Dudley Dursley and, my number one favorite, "Severus Snape". That name communicates a lot about the character. "Snape" sounds like "snake" and when I say the whole thing I almost hisss.

But I'm getting carried away! I won't give you all 5 of TMV's suggestions, just two and some links. I heartily recommend you read her article over at The Write Practice.

Remember Your Friends

TMV writes,
I often base my characters off of my friends because my friends are so interesting! When I do that, sometimes my characters end up with my friends’ names. Maybe not their exact names, but pretty close. Kirsten will become Kristen, Sophia will become Selena, and Sarah will become Sara.
Another tip someone gave me was to look at the names in movie credits; while I've never borrowed one whole, it is fun to mix and match first and last names. Often while I'm doing this a great name will come to me; almost as though it chose me rather than vice versa.

Also, TV credits work well, as do names from personal ads. Also I've often looked at statistical data, especially when I'm curious about what names were common in a certain year, or when I wanted a regional name.

Baby Naming Books And Sites

Where would writers be without baby naming sites? I shudder to think.

Fortunately, there are many sites on the web offering oodles of names, and even their meanings and the frequency of the name in different populations.

And all for free!

Here is a site I've used in the past: Behind The Name.
Also, there are some great random name generators out there, in fact Behind The Name has one (and, no, I'm not an affiliate!).

Just Google "random name generator" and you'll find a lot of fun, time-sucking, links.
How do you choose a name? What is your favorite character name?

Other articles you might like:

- Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks
- Book Cover Design: Free Programs For Choosing A Color Palette (Adobe Kuler & Color Scheme Designer)
- Different Kinds Of Story Openings: Shock And Seduction

Photo credit: "the smiths:these things take time" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, May 23

Michael J. Sullivan On The Dark Art Of Naming

For myself, there is nothing quite so agonizing as trying to name my characters. I think this is partly due to my conviction that I must give each of them a name which will illuminate some particular aspect of their personality. Whenever I re-read the Harry Potter books, I'm struck by how good Rowling was at this.

I love reading about how other writers do things, especially things I find difficult. This morning I came across a post in which Michael J. Sullivan shares how he creates name.
I collect names.

Much like a butterfly hunter, or perhaps more accurately, a bird watcher—whenever I spot a name I like, I pin it into a list I keep. Street signs are a great source of fun names. There are three streets near me called, Niblick, Mashie, and Follin. I just couldn’t resist thinking how these just sound like goblin names. Turns out they are golf terms—old names for clubs, I believe.

I also own a very old encyclopedia of proper names, which long ago I went through A-Z looking for any names I didn’t recognize that I thought were cool. This is how I came across Dahlgren, and Persepolis, which I changed to Percepliquis, because I thought it sounded better. I did this decades ago and forgot about it. Now when I see a name of something from my series in the real world I think—wow, someone named a city after my novels! At this point I’ve lost track what words I made up, which I modified and which I stole, but I keep a list—three lists actually, and they are: Male Names, Female Names, Names of Places and Things. This is where I dump all my gathered words. Then as I am writing and a character is spontaneously made, as sometimes happens, I just run down the list until I find a name that suits the character.

How do I do that?

Ah, now this is a trickier question ...
Read the rest of Michael Sullivan's enlightening post here: Names

"Michael J. Sullivan On The Dark Art Of Naming," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.

Thursday, May 3

Character Names: How To Create Them

Dan Schmidt, over at The Write Practice, has excellent tips on how to pick character names.

I don't know about you, but I find choosing character names agonizing, so I love reading advice on the subject.

Without further ado, here are Dan's tips (I'm paraphrasing):

1. Mine Your Contacts
Dad suggests using the names of the people around you. Your friends, relatives, acquaintances, the pizza boy, your waiter. I try to keep a notepad with me at all times in case I get inspired on the bus. After this, when I hear a name I love -- and I'm guessing we've all had this experience -- I (hopefully!) won't just think, "Wow, that would make a great character name" and then forget all about it, I'll write in down.

Dan suggests changing the name in subtle ways so it's not obvious where it came from, just in case the person we received inspiration from reads our story one day. Excellent advice! Especially in the case of a villain. I can think of a time or two someone ticked me off and I thought of them when writing an unattractive character, best not to make it too obvious.

2. Interesting Street Names
I had never thought of this before, but Google Maps provides oodles of street names from all over the globe. At the very least, looking at maps would be a great way to get inspiration for naming.

3. Movie Credits
Again, this was a point I'd never thought of, but Dan recommends studying the names of the cast and crew listed at the end of a movie. Awesome tip, and something I'm definitely going to do after this. Or try to do, I have a memory like sieve.

4. Think Outside The Box
Dan mentions the name of one of his favorite characters came from a length of PVC piping. This is awesome advice, to be constantly on the lookout for anything we can incorporate into our stories.

5. First and Last Names Don't Have To Go Together
Dan suggests keeping different lists for first and last names. He mentions using index cards, but I imagine that computer files would work just as well (he sounds much more organized than I am!).

6. Create A Cast List: Make Your Names Work For It
Don't accept any old names, put them through their paces. Write a list of all the names in your story and check to see that most of them start with different initials, that they have a different tone and that the name has a realistic feel.

7. Read the names out loud
Your book may one day be an audiobook, so someone may have to read all the names you've used. Make sure they are pleasing to the ear (or not, depending on the kind of character they name). Vowels are you friend. Dan advices asking a friend to read all your character names aloud. This is great advice, but if you can't manage that, I often like to have my stories read back to me by text-to-voice programs. The first time I did this I was amazed by the number of typos I caught.

8. Google it
You don't want to a real person as your arch villain, at least I wouldn't! Especially not if it's someone I might actually meet. Awkward.

I hope this list will be of some use. It's based on Dan Schmidt's post here: 8 Tips for Naming Characters.

Links:The Write Practice

Photo credit: Webdesigner. (I generally try to have some kind of connection between the topic of my post and the image I use, but today I couldn't find anything so I chose a Pirate. Why? Because Pirates are cool! Aarrrgggg.)

"Character Names: How To Create Them," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.