All Because of Chickens

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings: Special meaning to your character(s)' name

Hello, Saturday!

I'm pulling our musings together while the temperatures are hovering around 22C and we're expecting Mother Nature to drop us to fall-like temps...maybe even frost. It's been a wacky spring so far. But what does this have to do with today's topic? Nothing really, just a little chit-chatting.

Terri's brought us another question and this time to something that every character needs - a name.

Names are special. Our parents probably spent a good deal of time finding the right name for us. Or, we've been given a family name. Or, something unique. Maybe something with a meaning this wish for us.

TERRI BERTHA, Mainstream NEW author’s  question - Are character names important in your books, any special meaning to them?

Character names are very important, and I try to ensure they are appropriate to the culture, seriousness and time period in which a book is set. I think it best to give sensible names to realistic characters, and amusing names to humorous characters. As a reader, I can't believe in a serious character who has a foolish name.

My family tree often comes in handy when choosing first names, and I match the period of the story with people from the correct generation. However, I always change the surname, although, I often use the same initial letter.

Having said all that, I can't remember why I chose the first name of the protagonist of my book 'Daffodil and the Thin Place'. There's certainly no one in my family named Daffodil! But it suits her because although she'd like nothing more than to fit in with the 'in' crowd at school, she is true to herself and eventually, shows her boldness and individuality - just like daffodils are distinctive and stand out in the flower bed in spring.

I always try to choose character names that suit the character I've created, but not in an obvious way. I also try to make sure the name is something I (and the readers) won't mind hearing over and over again, especially if they're a main character. It can affect how the reader perceives them, for example, a character who's name is "Bob" and one who's name is "Caspian" will give the readers a preconceived notion of what the character is like, even if it’s only a small bias, that might stick with them for the story even if they learn what the character is really like. Especially when you're making up names of our own, I think it's important to consider the impression of the name itself, because whether it's a good thing of not, people are judged by their names, just as books are by their covers.

Most often now as I get into the second dozen of written and published work I’m often trying not to be repetitive with character names. I’ve had to start a chart. Upon occasion I’ll write a theme-based story in which the character names play as significant a role as a natural part of the story. For example, in my upcoming September 1 release titled Innocents Pray, the novel’s characters are a subtle message about the outcome of the story. I’ll leave you to consider what hidden agenda may lie beneath the obvious: Liberty (Libby), a victim of disease and malaise; her husband Victor (Vic), their son Jordan who was conceived in Israel on a job site and is a troubled youth; Brother Able who holds their secrets; Dr. Richard (Rich) who wants to save Libby in an attempt to procure a universal cure; Nona, a second mother figure for Jordan.

When I wrote Relocated, the first in the Novels of Aleyne series, I needed not simply names, but a naming system for my aliens. Because I wanted names that sounded alien but not unpronounceable or too hard to remember and also because I needed rather a lot of them, I decided to use a name generator to help. I decided to use Arabic/Farsi/Persian names as a starting point. I either used the names unchanged, used part of the name, or changed them in some manner. I also had to decide which would be female names and which male. I wanted a system because, hey, otherwise it might be touch to figure out. Then I decided my characters needed nicknames, so I developed a system for that, too.

I ended up with male names ending in a consonant or A and female names generally ending in I. I used a part of the name (generally from the front of the name) for nicknames. Thus Raketh became Keth, Ardaval became Arda, and the like.

I also co-opted some of the names of my foreign co-workers, changing a letter or two.

Yes, character names are important to me, and therefore in my books, whether they are names of people or animals.  I believe that beings often grow into their names, so I want my characters to develop characteristics in line with their names.  I actually have a baby name book I use for this purpose.  The only bad thing about that is when I try to find a villain-type name.  I mean, who would consciously name their baby something that might lead him/her to be a disappointing child, or have a disappointing life?  So, in the case of a villain or someone who is just not of a favorable character, I choose a name that to me, sounds like my character would be.

This not only works for first names, it can also work for last names.  I have a character in my present work in progress with an Irish surname.  I got on my computer search vehicle and brought up Irish last names.  It not only gave me names, but also their meanings.  I was able to match the name to my idea of the person.

My main character names don’t really have any meaning except when I started the story this was the name I picked for them. However, secondary characters’ names do have meaning. For instance, in If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor I used Jennifer, because at that time it was one of the most popular names for girls. I added Taylor to sound like she had money. You wanted to meet someone named Jennifer Taylor. I used Brad as her boyfriend, because that is a very movie star like name. Because of the way he looked he had to have that name. The math teacher’s name, Mr. Armbruster, was meant to sound tough. He is a tough guy and he doesn’t stand for nonsense.

In After, I chose Amber for the mean girl’s name. It is an unusual name, and it set her apart from the rest of the kids. Lauren was named that, because as I was thinking of her she reminded me of that name. Lauren’s friend had to have a very open and appealing name and Joey gives you the feeling of this. In “Who Is Jennifer Taylor?” the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, her social studies teacher’s name is Mr. Peabody. He is named after the dog, Peabody, in the cartoon, where Peabody is the source of knowledge. Also, in “Who Is Jennifer Taylor?” I introduce the character of Danny Ryan. He had to have a name that was different from any of my other characters. It had to sound a little open too.

Recently, one of my critiques on the sequel was that the therapist and one of the characters had similar names. The therapist is named Carol and of course, there is Carolyn from the first book. I am still on the fence about changing the names, because I almost never change names once they are in the story. What do people here think I should do? As I said, I have no reason to change her name.

Some of them are, but often not the main characters. It seems too obvious to name the main characters after close friends or family, but the two main characters in my first novel are named after my brother and sister, just because they've very everyday names which I wanted the characters to have. Some of the other characters were named after cousins etc. but for example, my father will never have a character named after him because his name is Pierce, and it's too striking a name, and too obvious a nod to him. For Peter and the Little People and The Soul of Adam Short, I chose names that were right for the characters rather than anyone I knew. I have stuck names of my friends in here and there in various novels, but they're usually minor characters, or even names of streets can refer to them, but only the person in question will catch it. In my WIP, I have named two main characters after a person who is now deceased and who I never actually met but I saw a movie about and who I thought deserved a mention as he kind of inspired the characters, but I won't spoil the surprise by revealing. Especially since I'm not sure if they will keep those names past the first draft.

Keep reading and dreaming. If there’s anything you’re curious about just drop me a note:


  1. Honestly, when I named Frank in Forging Day, I had not the faintest idea how important he would become to the story. I just wanted a guy with an average name and I hadn't used 'F' yet. Sad but true. Love you, Frank.

    Noelle Alladania Meade

  2. Hey, Noelle...and sometimes that's the magic of a character. Thanks for coming by

  3. I keep a list of interesting names I run into, just to have on hand when I'm developing characters. Other times, I get a random assortment and go through them until one fits. And sometimes, it's personal. The narrator of my books, David Fraser, got his name from two friends I met playing an online game: David Bowman and Frankie Fraser.


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