Tuesday, December 6, 2011

By Any Other Name

It’s always fun when you give a character a name that is absolutely perfect for him/her. You can always tell when an author puts effort into naming, too. One thing that always impresses me about THE HUNGER GAMES is how appropriate Katniss’s name is. The plant she was named for is commonly calledan arrowhead. I wonder how long it took Suzanne Collins to come up with it.

When I name a character, it’s usually pretty quick. Honestly, sometimes I choose names based on what’s on TV when I’m writing. I take a little more time when I’m picking a main character, but I don’t search for something steeped in meaning. I go with what feels right. I can tell I picked a good one if I don’t think about it anymore. I’ve changed names thirty pages into a draft because every time I typed it, my fingers stick on the keyboard.

What’s your opinion on character names? Do they have to be perfect for the character and the story? Or do you pick a name and go with it? What are your favorite character names and why? Is asking all these questions a total cop out to a real post?

For that last one, I’m thinking yes.


  1. Names. Sigh. If only I could name characters...

    I know what you mean about fingers sticking to keyboard. I have one character with a name like that now. He's a main character, too, so the name has to go. But change it to what?

    I like characters with perfect names. I can't pick one to save my life, though.

  2. I look through various databases of children's names. There are also lists of national athletes, writers, actors, historical figures, that sort of thing, for various international characters, and that involves mixing and matching surnames and first names.

    I chose the name Jacob for one of my characters because the Biblical character's history had a good parallel with the character I wrote, and at the same time, he was named after a nephew of mine who passed away.

    I did write in a minor character, an Israeli general who started out with no name. I chose the name Reshef for him, which has its roots from a Canaanite god of war.

  3. I tend not to spend heaps of time thinking of "appropriate" names either. They generally don't have any meaning. But often once a character has her or his name, I can't bear the thought of ever changing it, because the name gets infused with their personality. In my head, at least!

  4. I'm with Trisha! I very rarely look for a name that has a matching meaning or characteristics. AFter all, in the real world, not many of us live up the our name's meaning. My middle name means "industrious" which still makes my mother laugh.

    Once your character has the name, it will suit him/her. Then, like Trisha said, it will become infused with their personality.

  5. I like it when a character's name is perfect for the character and the story but it's not a necessity.

    I'm known for changing character names if I stumble across one I decide I like more than the one they currently have.

    But no, I don't think asking questions is a cop out. You're gathering information. Nothing wrong with that.

  6. I LOVE naming my characters, and yes, they have to be perfect and "sound" like the character that they are. I choose them with care. Ha, and yes, it's helpful to have something easy to type!! (although you can trick word and have it do an auto-complete if you hate typing it; you can type in Rathi and have it auto-fill for Rathimethosah, for instance.) :o)


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