Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

What’s in a Name? July 27, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 9:29 PM
Tags: ,

Names are a vital part of a story. It’s true you can get used to pretty much anything, but the right name makes an impression. I doubt ‘Eugene Phineas Potter’ would be quite as popular as ‘Harry Potter’. Just my opinion, of course.

My point is, I agonize for ages trying to pinpoint the exact right name for a character. Several times, I’ve switched names halfway through a work, or even christened a character ‘IDK’ and run a Find and Replace once I came up with a better label. But this post isn’t about not having names. It’s about finding them. Here are a few of the places I get my names:

1. Off the top of my head. That’s where a lot of my writing comes from – pure imagination. It’s probably all fueled by subconscious bits and bobs, but it feels like I just made it up. Sometimes a name just appears and sticks. This is rare, and I love it.

2.  I can’t describe how much I love this place. With the advanced search, I can plug in what letters I want the name to start with, how popular I want it to be, what ethnic background it has, and even what it means. I have gotten loads of names off this place.

3. People I know. After experiencing my fellow human beings, certain names gain certain connotations in my mind. Michaels are flighty, Courtneys are eccentric, and if I ever have a twisted, deranged character, he’s named Kevin for sure. Of course, these names are derived from my personal experience and so don’t have the same impact on any other reader. Still, I like them – like little Easter eggs hidden just for me.

These are the majority of the places I get character names. Where do you find names for character in books or stories? I’d love to get new sources.


One Response to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. blueghoul Says:

    Ah, names. I love them. Baby names sites’re my favorite. Any of them, really. I might be looking for something specific, though, like a Vietnamese boy name that starts with “L” and just end up google-searching that. Otherwise…I find maybe a long name that I like and shorten it. Valencia to Valen to Ven. Something that sounds…nice. Or I’ll just give a stand-in name like you do before switching it up to something more…personal, I guess. More suited to the character. I’ve got a lot of guys named Jack for no reason other than that’s a simple name and something easy to say. But Google’s pretty much my best friend for names. Lists a bunch of baby names sites to pick from (though I’m definitely with you on the whole Baby Names World page) and it’s just…helpful. Like if I accidentally name a character after some infamous person that’ll leave a bad connotation to some, Google will tell be that. Probably nothing new, but, um, that’s my sort of take on names.

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