Friday, March 2, 2012

Playing the Name Game

Playing the Name Game

I get asked frequently how I chose my character’s names, because it isn’t as easy as you’d think. It can be a very tricky part of plotting a novel and sometimes, when they’re not quite right, they could need changing last minute.

Choosing names has never been an easy task for me. It took the whole nine months before my husband and I decided on names for our sons, though naming our new son has been a little easier.

With my novels I always start by finding an image of that particular character. It helps me to have a very clear picture of that person in my head. Then I’ll trawl through baby names (I use a book and the numerous websites out there), hoping the perfect one will pop out at me.

I’ve always liked unusual names, and when I hear one I now jot it down on a spreadsheet. Yes, I honestly do that! However, no matter what name I choose I’m a big believer in the name matching the person described. Maybe that’s why choosing a child’s name is such a trauma for me? Maybe I need to see the baby before I can say YES!

It can take days for me to decide one hundred percent, and there have been times where a name has been altered just weeks before the novel went to print. In those occasions it’s down to one name sounding too similar to another character, or the fit not being quite right. When this has happened I’ve been happy my editor pointed out the problem, but going back to the drawing board certainly made me groan.

As for surnames, well at that point I get so lost! If I’m honest, most of my surnames haven’t appeared until the eleventh hour and normally found via a quick sift through the phone book.

I doubt I’ll ever find it easier naming my characters, but maybe I should try and have a little more fun instead of treating it as a bit of a chore?

Until next time....


  1. I like unusual names too. Guy names usually come easier for me. I'm not very traditional either. I've gone with Cade, Lorenzo and Gabe to name a few.

    But, I agree... naming them is a process. Sometimes it holds up my creative process because I can't start the book if I'm not totally satisfied with my names.

    Great post!

  2. What a relief to hear you struggle too ladies - if I don't get a name, it just kills me! I've even had a 'Blah' in my MS until I did a 'change all' at the end to something more appropriate. Also - if the name is very long - I just use a Z or something as a shortcut until I can 'change all' again. But then, when I do get a name - everything is right in my world.Thanks M.A.! x