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Friday, January 18, 2019

CHARACTER NAMES

By Caroline Clemmons

Carra Copelin is under the weather so I’m filling in for her.

When you read a book, do the characters’ names even matter to you? Do you ever wonder why the author chose a particular name? Naming our characters is more complicated than you might think. 

As an author, I assure you we don’t want to duplicate names we’ve used in another book. After writing numerous books, that’s a challenge. Confession: I slipped up and reused a few. Picture me blushing.

Blushing

At a Romance Writers of America conference several years ago, I attended a seminar on naming characters. Who knew it could take so much thought? I learned several things that have stayed with me on my writing journey.

For a hero, choose a strong name. Duh, should be obvious, right? According to the person giving the seminar, hard consonants are stronger than weak ones. That surprised me. I suppose that’s one reason Kincaid is a strong name several authors, including me, have used. Another way to choose a strong name is by the image the name evokes. Steele, Hunter, and Woolf are examples of strong hero names.  I've used each of those in my books. The Kincaids remains one of my most popular series. I used Steele in Death in the Garden, Hunter in Out of the Blue, and Woolf in A Family for Merry, which is included in Under a Mulberry Moon .

Keep the name consistent with the time period. Buffy wouldn’t work in an Old West romance. For historical romances, I use family names.  Since I also like genealogy, this is easy. We have some odd names in our ancestry, especially for women. 

For villains, I use the name of someone who committed a wrong against my family. My secret little way of getting revenge that hurts no one and makes me feel better. In GARNET, my latest release, I used Frank Lawson as the name of the villain. That's a combination of first names of two people who murdered my grandmother's brother. 

Available at
http://getbook.at/GarnetWOWR

Whatever the time period, I choose names that were actually popular in the era. Thank goodness for Google! Wouldn’t everyone be lost without that site?

How about you—are characters’ names important to you?

5 comments:

  1. I agonize over my characters' names. But I do have a very large baby book of first names divided by ethnicity which I refer to constantly. Someone once told me to check the obituary page of your local newspaper and see what trips your trigger there. Lol. Nice post, Caroline.

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    1. Judy Ann Davis, I've found an old book from the mid 70s titled Beyond Jennifer and Jason. You can get it for a song on Amazon. It is an outdated Baby Name book, but has been worth its weight in gold. Do NOT get the updated title, "Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana" if you write historical. It was a disappointment. Message me if you consider purchasing the book.

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  2. I know authors who can write a first draft using a filler name, then name their characters later. I simply can't. A character doesn't materialize for me until he tells me his name, then development is easy from there. But getting that name, especially the first name, can be a trial. The problem with names I've already used can be frustrating, and sometimes I do reuse secondary characters' names.

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    1. I agree, Jacquie. I have to name them something or I can't visualize them as I write.

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  3. Thank you for the interesting post, Caroline Clemmons. I give my characters' names a lot of consideration. I have a 1977 book of baby names that go back a couple hundred years and up to 1976, of course. It's titled "Beyond Jennifer and Jason." This little book has helped me immensely. It even has lists of names that fit a certain description. Pretty names, strong names, nonsense names, etc. Imagine how shocked I was to find my name among the list of common names at a Madame's Bordeau! LOL. Not trying to be too wordy, but I've noticed "O" names for boys are usually unmanly. Like Oliver, Orville, Oscar. I use these name for the other guy who is competing for my heroine.

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