Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Rose by Any Other Name...

When I was a teenager, I think I named my future children on a weekly basis. It became a hobby, studying up on the meanings of names, the roots, the variants, the spellings. Of course, my future children’s last name was still a mystery, but I was going to be ready when the time came! (Except when the time did come, for some reason, my husband thought it a joint project, and I ended up back at the drawing board...)

I even learned the Two Rules for Creating the Perfect Name:

--count the number of syllables in your last name, and vary. For instance, if your last name is three syllables, go with one, two or four for the first name.

--analyze the sound blends and either completely diversity (e.g., Ferraro is heavy on the R’s and ends in O, so avoid those two) or find rhythmical ways to repeat sounds (like Callie McCarthy).

What the experts don’t take into account, of course, is personal preference and trends. To my way of thinking, these rules are just a guideline, to be twisted and broken at will.

When it comes to naming characters in my books, I very rarely search for the most beautiful name. I want one that sounds real. What I do is put myself in the head of the parents, figure out what they were like, where they were at that time in their lives, and often I check a popular baby name site to see where my choice falls:

Then I play and play until the name feels right. Sometimes I hit early. Sometimes the struggle continues quite a while. Like in HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE (Delacorte Press, January, 2008), I didn’t quit changing some secondary names until the final revisions!

So...are there any other name hobbyists out there? Anyone have an usual name or favorite name or a good story behind their own name? Please weigh in...and feed my need to talk names!

10 fresh comments:

Kelly Parra said...

I don't have a story, but I noticed my urge to name characters in the same book with the same first letter. I think in GG, I had 3 or 4 characters that started with "M". argh! I didn't even realize I did this until the book came out. haha!

TinaFerraro said...

I think that's really natural...and I've noticed you like A names, too!

I'm noticing a lean in my books toward J's and C's and K's, and have to keep cleaning those up...

Kiki said...

I use 'M' too much, too!
Now whenever I don't have a name for a character yet, I call them Mr.M and replace later.

Since I have a pretty rare name, I get a thrill out of seeing it as a character's name (it's becoming more and more popular lately...)

I'm having a hard time coming up with 'normal' names that aren't already used by people I know.

Do you ever name a character the same as a friend? How do they react to that?

Janie Emaus said...

I tend to use the names of family members as main characters. And sometimes I go for long walks, thinking about my characters, letting a name come to me.


TinaFerraro said...

Kiki, I don't use friends' names for characters because it would seem too confusing. I think of--and often talk about--my characters as if they are real, because in my day-to-day life, they ARE. And I suppose I wouldn't want friends thinking I created a character after them, because again, it's just not something I do.

But that said, yeah, Janie often uses family names for characters and it works great for her.

Celise said...

A long time ago I had a job entering medical claims. A lot of the patients had really unique names, so I started writing down the first names I liked and made a list for both boys and girls. I never used name books,although I have one in my library. If I heard a name, read a book, saw a movie...and happened to like the name, I would write it down and add it to my list. I think creating names for your characters is the best part about writing.

My first book - Skylar Knight and Kedren Price

My Second Book - Mataya "Mattie" Black Hawk and Jarek Thanos

Third Book (Book One in YA series)-Draven Atreides and Poe Danziger (MC's best friend)

TinaFerraro said...

Wow, Celise, these are some really clever character names!

Your medical claims job--where you did "name research"--reminded me of another source of mine. Reading kids' name tags when I encounter classes on outings at museums and the zoo. I've seen some really unusual names that way!

Erica Orloff said...

Oh, I love this topic. I can't progress in a book unless the character names are "just right." And I used to name my kids, too. And I have to say I LOVE all my kids' names. But I married a Hispanic man, with one of the most common Hispanic surnames in the world, and so we were kind of careful how we named our kids--one has a Spanish name, the rest are middle of the road or Russian (my background)--we needed names that went with such an ethnic surname. (And didn't clash . . . I liked Declan, but it was too Irish for our last name.)

As for characters . . . my women usually have gender-neutral names--Billie, Georgia Ray--or names that are funky--Lulu, Cate--and the men are a lot of one-syllables. Vince . . . Tom . . .Jack.

TinaFerraro said...

Fun, Erica! Thanks so much for your thoughts here. And I love gender-neutral names for female characters, too, feel like it adds another dimension to them.

stephhale said...

Sorry, I've been slacking lately, ladies. Those dang revisions won't leave me alone.
I love choosing names. I always go for unusual ones. If a character has an unusual name they just seem more unique to me. In Revenge, I used A names for all the beautiful girls (kind of a HEATHERS theme) and in a new WIP I've got some doozy names.