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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Name Game

1965? Hand jive? Man, could we dance. (Or not.)

Okay, now that you're inspired-

I usually don't have trouble coming up with a character's name. In fact, that's where I start. With a name or two, definitely a place and a time.

But unlike some of my fellow writers who shall remain nameless, for me all that can change in a heartbeat.

Take Cletus, for example. Cletus, you say? Yes, a real boy from my past, going into a story kind of from my past. Missing May, one of my favorite middle grade novels of all times, featured a boy named Cletus. I thought it was a perfect name.

But then a few teachers and young moms perused the manuscript. Cletus was deemed unsuitable. So I named him after two "Franks"--one is a favorite life-long friend, the other a new little boy in our extended family. Both really nice people! And I like his new name even better: Franklin (Franklin Cletus Smith, in my mind's eye), Frankie, AKA Frankfurter when teased. A character I love a lot.

Problem solved.

Move on to the next. Now mind you, naming characters can totally change their personality. Glory's big sister in my forthcoming novel GLORY BE was originally called Virginia. Not for long. A very wise writer in my critique group pointed out that naming characters after states, in children's books, can be confusing. I thought about that name and it seemed way too milktoasty for this big sister. She became Jesslyn. She became more daring. An aspiring fire baton twirler, sneaking away to visit Elvis's house in Tupelo, standing up to Old Lady Simpson who wants to close her public pool.

If you're stuck on a name, or a place name, there are websites that will generate a name for you.

If you love Scrivener as much as I do, perhaps you've tried their very own Name Generator? I've never actually chosen a name this way, but I did play around with Scrivener on this and see how it might actually work.

And if you care to know more, I attached more links in this post I wrote about Character Names.


Carol Baldwin said...

thanks. I'll have to check out the websites. I have an older sister named "Virginia" (mostly referred to as Ginny though) and had never thought of the confusion with the state... back to work again!

Lee Stokes Hilton said...

Nice post! I remember those days of bandying names around the room. Of course, they all mesh together for me now -- looks like I have to read the book!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Carol, I don't think the confusion is that great, re: Virginia. Had the name suited my character, I would have stuck with it. But her new name is so much better. Once I re-named her, she literally assumed a new personality and the book was much improved.