What’s In a Name? And How Do You Choose One?

Happy Moon’s Day, Everybody! Marcia here, with some thoughts about names. Shakespeare’s words above might be true for roses, but are they always true for the characters in our books? I’m not so sure. Certain names can trigger specific memories and images for each of us, for sure, but not always in ways that are what we want readers to picture when we tell our stories.

 

 

 

For instance, what would you choose to name a gorgeous, well-built Adonis of a hero like this one? Gomer? Probably not, unless you were deliberately being humorous or ironic.

 

 

And what about your nerdy little computer geek who saves the world? He might turn out to be a hero, but I’m guessing a name like Goliath would be a poor choice, for the same reason.

 

 

It’s not that names always have to point to what your hero/heroine looks like, or even what he or she may end up doing through the course of the book. It’s more that you should be aware that naming your stalwart and handsome Prince Charming after your Uncle Lembert is likely to put an image in the mind of your readers that might not be quite what you intend. Or want.

 

And then there’s the possibility that your book might actually defeat the odds and become a nationwide best seller and a smash hit movie one day. Okay, those are high odds, but why not write with them in mind if the idea of that pleases you? You know. Just in case.  So if Lembert’s your prince, be aware that the second thing Hollywood will want to do–right after totally miscasting everyone in the film, of course–will be to rename your hero. Just ask James Fenimore Cooper how his Natty Bumppo became Nathaniel Poe in 1992’s Last of the Mohicans

 

So with all of the above in mind, how do you go about picking the perfect name for your characters? I’m sure there are a lot of different ways to do this, but here are a few tips that might get you started.

First, think about your setting and the type of people who live in your fictional town or area. For instance, I write books set in the southern part of the U.S.A. because this is where I was born and have spent most of my life. I know the people and places and dialect pretty well, and am comfortable with southern characters in my books. So the first thing I do is look for old southern surnames. Yep. That’s a thing. (Probably works for every other locale, too.) One of my favorite sites contains a listing of over 700 southern surnames  found in old graveyards. 

That’s where I found the last name Painter, which I chose for my three brothers featured in one of my series. It’s also where I found southern last names that worked well for their first names, too, hence, Jackson, Forrest, and Hunter. A little more poking around the graveyard gave me the surnames of Truitt (Billy) and Purvis (Lester) which worked perfectly for two more  of my secondary characters.

But sometimes choosing old surnames isn’t the way to go, and it’s not how I picked the names for my two main characters in the first book of that same series. I had specific images in mind for both the heroine and the hero, based on very definite reasons related to the plot. The “old southern surnames” trick wouldn’t work.

My leading lady was to be a fiery, hot-tempered, redheaded gal of Irish heritage, so I chose the name Mary Margaret Devlin for her. I didn’t even have to research to know that her first and middle names are quite common Irish names. But I did do a search for Irish surnames, so I could choose one that fit, but yet was a bit different, too. So my final choice was Maggie Devlin, which worked for me. 

For my hero, I deliberately wanted an impossibly good looking, big, and well-built man who was as genuinely nice as he was hunky and attractive. And since I wanted Maggie (who had a grudge against men in general) to hate this poor guy from the get-go,  I decided to make him of Scandinavian descent, so she could poke fun at him for looking too much like “Thor.”

I went Googling again for appropriate Scandinavian names, and  ended up choosing Gunnar Wolfe because it sound very Vikingly and strong. To me, it had a heroic ring to it, and I wanted that as part of his whole persona, even though he’s actually a rather quiet man who loves nothing more than photography.

So that’s another way to go about it. Think of who you want your readers to picture and how you want them to connect with that character, then do your research–especially if you’re looking for regional or ethnic names. There are a ton of websites out there that can help you find names appropriate to your character’s looks, personality, and heritage. I usually narrow it down fairly quickly to two or three names I think will work, then make my final choice based on the one that feels right to me.

 

 

Then there’s my last method of choosing names. Again, relying on Google, I enter “popular baby names.” You can narrow the search by gender, or you can look for the most popular names around the time your character was born.

 

Approximate birth year alone can make a huge difference. Many names popular decades ago are not in use much today and vice versa. You probably don’t want to name your story’s 75-year-old granny Tiffany, for instance. I can pretty much guarantee you that no baby girls born in 1945 would have been christened that. Mildred, Bernice, or Maxine, maybe. Or even Marcia. 😉 But not Tiffany.

Tiffany? Is That You?

BTW, the most popular names in recent years include Ashely, Madison, Brianna, and Cheyenne, in case you’re wondering, with nary a Helen or Martha in the bunch. (NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend using the most popular current names in a book set today unless you are making a specific point with it. Looking for something popular but not overdone will likely serve you better.)

The take-away from all of this is:

  • Fictional names are important because they help your readers imagine your characters. It’s worth spending some time picking just the right ones in hopes they’ll work the way you’d like.
  • Do your research based on what you want your readers to imagine when they meet each character. That can include how they picture the general appearance, heritage, and age of each character.
  • Try to choose names that will bolster your desired image if you are hoping for a certain look to pop into the minds of your readers immediately.
  • Seemingly inappropriate or surprising names can work great if you’re looking for irony or comedy, so by all means consider using them if that’s your goal.
  • And REMEMBER: Perfect character names won’t turn a bad book into a good one. They won’t magically improve your grammar, your plot, or your writing style. But great names can certainly make a good book even better. Maybe think of it as the icing on the cake. Plus Hollywood won’t have to come up with new ones when they decide your story is movie material.

Just Sayin’ …..

And that’s it for this week, everyone. Now it’s your turn. Tell us below what you think.  Have you employed search engines to help you choose your names? Do you try to find names that portray the look or actions of your characters? Do you have specific sites that have been extra helpful with this? As always, inquiring minds wanna know! 

Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for our regular Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts here on Story Empire. There are sure to be lots of good things coming up, so don’t miss out! I’ll be back before long with a new Why Write Wrong post for you, too. See you then!

Meanwhile, go forth to write with happy hearts and fabulously perfect character names! And Granny hopes you remember to have fun while you’re at it, because fun’s the very best thing to have! 😀


(All images above were created by me or obtained from Pixabay.) 

58 thoughts on “What’s In a Name? And How Do You Choose One?

  1. I spend ages choosing names for my characters. I try to avoid too many beginning with the same letter because I now have the memory of a gnat and when reading other novels I struggle if names are similar. I also have favourite names, sometimes based on people I know. In the same way, I couldn’t have a likeable protagonist called Angela because I was bullied by someone of that name when I was at school – sorry to all the lovely Angelas out there! It’s interesting seeing generational trends. Several years ago I heard a radio play by Alan Bennet about people in a care home in the nearish future and they were names like Kevin that are very much of my time. Here, names like Maude, Ruby, Esme, Ivy and Ada are making a comeback, as are Alfred, Archie, Reggie and Benjamin. (I also enjoy a mooch around a quiet graveyard.)

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    • Very interesting, Trish. I think some names see resurgences based on famous people in the news or in film, too. Trends come and go, for sure. And I totally agree on being very careful about starting too many names with the same letter in your books. I have the same problem. I have to stop and remember which character I’m reading about, and that’s never good. I’m with you on not using names of people you disliked in real life, too. Except of course, if the character isn’t one of the good guys. Then it can be fun, in a secret sort of way. 😀

      Graveyards are always interesting to explore and some of the inscriptions I’ve read really touched my heart.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today, Trish. So nice to see you. And stay tuned to the Beta blog. I have a short announcement coming up soon. Hehehehe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to agree with most of your commenters. I choose names by nationality based on what I am writing and by the time period. I find Google to be a great resource, as well as old news paper obituaries, and cemeteries. I also keep a list of potential character names when I come across one. Good post, Marcia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle. Sounds like you use some of the same sources I do, and you are careful about names from different time periods. That’s great! Cemeteries are probably my favorite approach for old surnames, at least. I think they work well for various regional surnames, too. Thanks so much for taking a moment to share your approach with us. I appreciate your comments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Marcia! For my Diasodz series, the four main characters were easy since their names needed to have a connection to some biblical characters. (Ar’ch, Angel, and Rafe combine to make Archangel Raphael, and Sophia is considered the angel of love.) For my other characters, I looked for names from the era in which they were born, and I looked for names that carried a certain meaning to them. For example, I used Drake for one of my antagonists. He was born in the early 1600s. His name means dragon. When I think of a dragon, I think of both a protector and a destroyer, and my Drake is both of those.

    For an upcoming book that I have yet to write, I have a play on the name of two characters. The original “witch” is Silena. Her story is told in my short story, Breathless. Her descendant’s story will be told in an upcoming book. Her name is Ani, which is short for Anelis (Silena spelled backwards). Naming characters always takes thought for me, but I enjoy the process. 🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing, Yvette! I like your thoughtful approach to your character’s names. For one thing, it clearly shows you know how important the right character names are, for many different reasons. And I love that you spelled one character’s name backwards to name another. Very clever, plus, I believe there are some legends of saying things backward that apply to various magics, if I’m not mistaken. Possibly even black magic? At any rate, it seems to have worked well for you.

      So nice of you to stop by today and take a moment to share your thoughts. Thanks! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great read, Marcia. I loved it. My characters often have a first or last name (never both) of a friend or family member. After reading your post, I plan to explore other resources for selecting names. Thank you for the tips! 😀

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    • Thanks so much, Gwen. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve slipped in a name or two from people I know, as well. A doctor who made a brief appearance once was given the name of one of my nicest real life doctors, for instance. But so far, I haven’t named any main characters for one. That’s not to say I never will, though. 🙂 I’m glad the post has inspired you to look at some new resources, too. The search is always fun. (OH, the odd names you spy, which no one would likely believe if you used in your books. 😀 )

      Thanks for dropping in to say hello, Gwen! I appreciate it so much! 🙂

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  5. Names are HELLA important to me. Research usually factors in (Google, baby name sites, name generator sites), but sometimes I get a character complete with name before I even get a storyline. Sometimes they show up already named. In fact, my series after my current WIP series, was built on the names of the two main characters.

    Then there are instances where you can totally mash up the names of people who’ve wronged you in the past and set them inside a horror novel. To be killed painfully. Mwuah hauh hauh ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I love how your mind works, Jessica! I’ve threatened people (like my dentist) with that very thing–naming a character for them, and then killing them off in a horrible fashion! 😀 Rabbit came to me (via a message from another character) already named, so I can totally believe your characters do that now and then, too.

      Names truly are important, though, and getting them right is huge, in my opinion. Sounds like we agree on that, for sure. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jess, and taking the time to share your thoughts on this one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an important thing to get to grips with! Like others, my fantasy world demands something different, though I also try to keep the names easy to pronounce and with some similarities to familiar names.
    For my urban fantasy though, I had fun! My water sprite protagonist gets to choose her own names, so she currently goes by Cassie Lake, sticking with the water theme. One of her previous incarnations was called Morven Uisce – Morven being a common name up here in the Scottish Highlands, and Uisce means ‘water of life’ – or the origin of the word ‘whisky’! I had fun researching that one 😀

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    • Research can be a lot of fun, can’t it, Debby? I really enjoy it, most of the time. And I struggle with fantasy when the names are impossible to pronounce, so I’m glad you keep that in mind. Word origins are always fascinating, too, I think.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing a bit about how you choose your character names! Lovely to see you here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good post, Marcia:) I get an idea of the first letter I need for the name and then research it. Like you, I make sure its a name from the year they were born and fitting to the story. Some of my evildwel characters required names that had been around a long time. While my angels I looked for angel names as a start. Then I’ve gone back and changed names when they don’t end up fitting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you fully understand the need for names that will give your readers exactly the impression you’re looking for, Denise, and have most of these tricks down pat. That’s great. BTW, I researched angel names, too, going all the way back to early writings, etc. There are some differences between various texts on what the “assigned duties” of each angel was, but most showed Azrael as the angel in charge of “escorting” souls to the afterlife. (Short version). So that’s why I chose him for my Emissary trilogy. Research is often something I really enjoy, as I end up learning a whole lot more than I originally start out looking for. 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your methods with us today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Denise. I felt it was the right one as soon as I read it. And besides, I like the sound of it, too. 😀 Research is usually fun, isn’t it? I’m a dictionary reader, too. (Or I was before Google.) I’d look up one word, then end up reading all the others on the page. Sometimes several pages. Word origins are especially interesting to me. 🙂

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  8. This was a fun post, but also spot on. Names DO make a difference. I do what you do and look them up for ages, countries, meanings, etc. I’ve even researched witch and demon names. Whatever gives me ideas:)

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    • Hi, Judi! Glad you enjoyed the post. I tried to make it fun along with sharing some of my favorite name sources. Sounds like you’ve got a good handle on the process. Never thought about searching for witch names, though I know there are many ancient names for demons. Still, a witch ought to have a name that fits perfectly, too, an I’m sure there are some famous ones to look through.

      Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts! Great to hear from you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. That was a fun post, Marcia. And I totally agree that names create associations and pictures in our heads, even made up ones. Writing fantasy is a little different in that using “normal” names is often disorienting to readers. Non-Earth worlds would rarely have characters named Bernie and Florence. Lol. So the “sound” of names becomes more important than the associations. I’ve found that taking “normal” names and making slight tweaks makes them different but still readable. Thanks for the great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Diana. I had fun with it, while still trying to offer some helpful tips. I agree with your take on fantasy names. They should be something different from the norm, but it’s helpful if a) we can still pronounce them as we read, and b) they have a certain ring of familiarity to them. I’ve read enough of your fantasy now to know you have a solid handle on that. 🙂 And if Bernie the elven king and Florence the fairy princess ever show up in one of your books, I promise I’ll gently remind you of how silly they sound. Unless, of course, you wanted that reaction. 😀 For me, though Naj, Alou, and Talin work perfectly. 😀

      Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed the post. I appreciate it greatly! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Names I feel are a critical aspect of stories. When I started writing, I’d pick a name out of the air and just go with it. Readers couldn’t get “into” the story because they didn’t feel a bond with the characters. It took some time, but I discovered, it was the names. In my Amish Christian series, I originally chose “Mark” for my main character. It was a good, strong name. But, the more I worked with the story, I decided “Daniel” would be better. We all remember the Bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den. I kept putting my character into situations that questioned his faith. My Amish-reader fan base is screaming for the next “Daniel” book – not the next book in “The Amish Singer” series. I feel the name is the reason. Readers bonded. In my co-written Brazilian vampire novel, I originally had “Anna” as a character and the Brazilian vampire queen was “Victoria.” My co-author, who lives in Brazil, changed up the names. In Portuguese, it is “Ana,” not “Anna” and well, Victoria fell to the wayside. The vampire queen is now “Itotia” – pronounced “Eye-toe-chia” The story now has a Brazilian flavor and our new publisher is ecstatic with the cast, as he says “A new twist on the old European vampire.” BTW, my name is Robert Nailor, but I write as Bob Nailor which seems to make me more approachable. Robert seemed rather stiff, stuffy, and formal, or so I was told. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are exactly right on the importance of names, Bob. And your example of changing from Mark to Daniel is a very good one. Daniel immediately has a Biblical feel to it that all can recognize. I love how you worked with your Brazilian co-author to get names that had the perfect flavor for your Brazilian vampire novel, too. I must say, that one really intrigues me. Pretty sure I’ve never read about a Brazilian vampire, and now I’m curious! 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to visit today and share your thoughts with us. It’s greatly appreciated! 🙂

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  11. What a great post about naming characters, Marcia! I know it sounds crazy, but often, my characters tell me their name before they tell me their story. I have used name websites in the past when I get stuck or need a side character’s name, and I always try to make sure the name fits the visual I have of the character. Character names are one of my favorite writing pleasures. My latest characters (a novel I’ve just started) are Colt Layne and Sage Coventry. Colt inherited his grandfather’s ranch and rodeoed for many years. Sage is a medium who can communicate with the deceased. Their names came quite easily, although I did have to change Colt’s name. He started out to be Jess, but because of a conflict with another character name in the series, I had to change it. I try to avoid character names that start with the same letter or sound alike in my stories. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and resources on character names, Marcia!

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you consider “Scrivener” for your writing needs, it has a name generator that breaks down names by gender, nationality, and history. I mean, who would have considered “Ancient Babylonian” as a possibility?

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      • I’ve tried Scrivener, Bob, and while I know it’s hugely popular, I spent way more time playing than writing. I think I’m a simple soul. I do all my work in Word in a template I saved from the old CreateSpace program, and so far, so good. And I’m going to do a post soon (I hope) on Scapple, my favorite bulletin board app where I keep notes, images, etc. for everything from day to day household and banking stuff to each of my books. But I do know Scrivener has some excellent features, and a name generator can be very helpful, indeed. Glad it works for you. Ancient Babylonian, huh? Cool. 😀

        Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Bob. Nice to see you here! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jan. Glad you enjoyed the post. I totally agree on avoiding characters whose names start with the same letter. Readers (like me) can get confused in a hurry. And, nope, not crazy at all. I absolutely understand your characters telling you their names. In my case, it was one character telling me another character’s name. Just as I was falling asleep one night, I clearly heard Sarah Gray MacKenzie whisper, “There’s a little boy named Rabbit alone in the mountains, and you need to tell his story.” I dozed off thinking about that and got up in the morning knowing exactly who Rabbit was and why he was alone in in the wilderness. Sounds like I made it up, but I didn’t. I called my friend & cover designer first thing in the morning to tell her what I’d dreamed, and she said was “Rabbit? That’s crazy.” 😀

      I love the names Colt & Sage. Sue Coletta just posted about a character named Sage, too. It’s VERY cool! And Colt sounds nice and strong. And I hope my resources will make good additions to your name-choosing options, Jan. Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  12. Love the idea of searching through cemeteries for names, Marcia! I’ve used “Baby Names” for several of my characters. For my Mayhem Series, I use a Native American site. It also helps to name a character by concentrating on who they are as a person. For example, I wanted an earthy name for the MC of my Grafton County series, so I opened the spice rack and chose Sage. 🙂

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    • I bet you, of all people, would enjoy looking through cemeteries for old names, especially surnames. And good idea with the Native American site, too. I agree you have to know who your character is, and what impression you want to portray to readers right from the get-go. Sage was a great choice, and it also makes me think of wisdom. (I hope your character was as wise as he was earthy. 😀 )

      Thanks so much for stopping by today to tell us your thoughts, Sue. I always learn something new from you! 🙂

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  13. For first names, sometimes characters just show up and tell me, but I’ve also searched popular baby names for certain years. It’s last names that throw me. If I’m stumped, I’ll “borrow” a name from an actor, character, muscian, etc. In The Gemini Connection, the detective was named after Harrison Ford’s character in Blade Runner. I also took a name from Chris Pratt’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy.

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    • Thanks for your input, Teri. I never thought about using other character names, though I’m sure I’ve done so unintentionally now and then. On surnames, don’t forget those old cemeteries. I’m telling you, they are a gold mine! 😀 But I can honestly say that your name choices in The Gemini Connection worked for me, and I expect they will in Subject A36, too.

      Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts this morning! It’s greatly appreciated! 🙂

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  14. I positively LOVED naming characters. I keep a running list of surnames and first names (male and female) which is the first place I look whenever I start a new book. If the surname doesn’t fit the nationality of my character, I’ll look online. Googling “Old English Surnames” was a huge help when writing A Winter Reckoning which is set in Medieval England. I also use a very fat baby naming book, and baby naming sites online.

    And then sometimes, the character determines their own name. I wrote half of Cusp of Night with my MC as “Hannah” but the character and I couldn’t connect. When she insisted I change her name to “Maya” we found the perfect fit!

    Excellent post today, Marcia. I really enjoyed this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mae! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and you bring up a great point. We have to connect with our own characters! (If we don’t, how can we expect our readers to?) So if a name is just not working for you, by all means, look for one that does. Hannah becomes Maya, and bingo. You and your main character are now simpatico! 😀 And smart move with A Winter Reckoning, too. I’ve never tried writing from an era I haven’t already lived through, myself, so that’s a lot trickier. Your approach was exactly what I’d do if I were to try such a thing. (Unlikely.) And I suspect you’ve got this down pat! 😉

      Thanks so much for stopping by this morning, and taking a few minutes to share your thoughts. It’s greatly appreciated! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Good Morning, Folks! Today, I’m over at Story Empire with a post about choosing character names. Hope you’ll stop by to check out the post, and will enjoy it enough to pass it along far and wide. Thanks so much! 🙂 ❤

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  16. I keep a list of interesting names, and invented my own convention for some fantasy naming. I like the search-by-era sites, too. It’s interesting how names come and go in popularity. Science fiction naming still vexes me, but I get there eventually.

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    • I imagine that with speculative fiction, you can get away with a LOT of names that might not work otherwise. It’s still helpful to avoid starting too many with the same letter as Joan and Robbie mention below, as that can confuse readers. But mostly, you get to have some real fun, I would think. And yes, searching by era or year is pretty interesting. The year my son was born, 1971, I’d never heard of or met a boy or man named Jason. His great-grandmother was horrified that we would choose such a strange (to her) name. Guess what turned out to be the #1 boy’s name that year? Yep. He went all the way through school with other boys named Jason, though I never found out what sparked the trend. Of course, if I’d known it was going to be a trend, I would have chosen something different. For our books, it’s helpful to choose names that were actually in use during the appropriate era, though we still don’t have to choose the #1 name of the time, unless we have a specific reason for doing so.

      Sci-Fi names are a whole ‘nuther thing, but I have no doubt you’ll master that, too, Craig. Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts today! Appreciate it! 🙂

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  17. I keep a running list of potential names. When choosing character names, I look for popular names for the character’s age, ethnicity, etc. And it has to be a name I like for my protagonist. I also don’t want to many names that begin with the same letter. When I first wrote Unseen Motives, I had a Stephanie, Scott, Sophie, and Sylvia. Stephanie remained, but the others became Matt, Helen, and Pat.

    I also don’t like “rhyming names” or first and last names that end with the same letters but that’s a personal preferance.

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    • You hit on a point I had planned to mention, then forgot, Joan–starting too many names with the same letter, especially names of main characters. As a reader, I find that very confusing, and often have to stop and remind myself which character I’m reading about. So, that can pull me out of the story, which is never something we never want to have happen to our readers. You were smart to catch that and choose new names. I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed rhyming names, but I do think names need to sound “right” when read aloud. Since I do local presentations fairly often, I’ve become more aware of how things fit together when read aloud, and rhythm has become important to me, as well. But some names look better than they sound. 😀

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this issue today, Joan. I believe it’s a lot more important than some may realize, and hope this post, while not answering every single question, will point out that some careful consideration should be given to choosing the right names for each character. (Unless it comes to you in a dream, of course, like, say “Rabbit.” And then you might want to consider it a gift you should not ignore, no matter how odd it sounds. 😀 )

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  18. I also search for names by region and/or nationality to make sure they fit my characters correctly. I tend to prefer less common names, though (not that you’d know it from my WIP) so as I’m looking, I try to find ones that stand out rather than blend in. Great suggestions, Marcia.

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    • As do I, Staci. I don’t want the names to be common, and only use the most popular names of the year to be sure I’m not picking a name that just wouldn’t work for the character’s age–like Tiffany above. I only threw in those last four names as a side tidbit about current popular names for babies in the U. S. None of them would be my personal choice for a lead character. But I’d name any grannies in my book from the popular names of their day, just to paint the appropriate picture. My own mother, who would be 97 now, was a Mildred. And my grandmothers were Miriam and Ethel. I’m thinking NONE of those would be appealing for a young female character today, at least not in the U. S. I’d skip them, myself, unless I was writing about someone older.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Staci! Thanks for taking the time to let me know your thoughts. 🙂

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  19. For my first Interludes book, one of the characters was Eric. I wanted a middle-aged gentle bloke, but some of my friends upon reading his story were in hysterics … apparently, poor old Eric isn’t sexy! lols.
    I often use online name generators, which are a great resource. I can choose nationality and also come up with names for fantasy fiction too.

    Great post, Marcia. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    • Thanks, Harmony. Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve only checked out name generators once or twice, but I have a list of recommended ones, and would definitely use them if I didn’t find what I was looking for on an old gravestone, or the U. S. Social Security rolls for the year in question.

      Eric was a very hot name here once, though not seen so often now. I never thought about whether it was sexy or not. 😉 But there you have what a name can do. You sure don’t want your readers falling down laughing about the guy you were hoping they’d swoon over. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by to comment this morning! I really appreciate it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve only heard the name Ashley used locally out of those four choices, Marcia. Locality also influences names. I also use Google to research names of characters and struggled a bit with appropriate Afrikaans names for A Ghost and His Gold. I didn’t want to use the names of anyone I knew. I realised after I published Through the Nethergate that I favour names beginning with M. I had Margaret, Father Merton and Father Muike. Michelle is one of my MC’s in A Ghost and His Gold and another is Estelle. I realised this but decided not to change them as those were there names by them. I just didn’t feel right to change them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those four names were the most popular girl’s names in the U. S. in recent years, but of course, if you aren’t writing about the United States, they wouldn’t apply. And for my own tastes, I’d never use any names that popular, unless I had a very special reason. I just want my own character’s names to be a bit more unusual (and hopefully memorable) without being bizarre.

      As a reader, I find it really hard to keep character names straight if too many begin with the same letter. It’s not wrong, of course. But I tend to forget which is which, or have to stop a moment and think about it. (Never something you want a reader to need do.) So I’ve learned to steer away from that, when possible. The rhyming names wouldn’t bother me a bit, because they don’t both start with the same letters, so visually they don’t interrupt the flow of my reading. Of course, reading aloud is a whole different matter. It’s more about how distinct each name sounds, rather than how similar they night look.

      Finding names we like that don’t cause confusion is often tricky. But yes, as I say, region or locality or heritage can be very important, as you’ve found.

      Thanks for stopping by this morning and taking the time to share your thoughts, Robbie. It’s always good to see you! 🙂

      Like

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