With a Web on her Face
This post was originally featured at Debra Jayne East’s blog as part of the TTC/MK VBT 2012.
When I first started writing stories I went to the library and checked out Baby Name Books. I was eleven or so and the librarians gave me strange looks when I came back for different ones and to renew the ones I liked best. Eventually, I found some at yard sales (and much later, bought them from Amazon) so I could have my own copies on the shelf next to my poison-guide, police procedural walk-throughs, and various other reference books.
At the time, I liked to give distinctly ‘appropriate’ names for characters. I named the clumsy friend of my main character, Claudia, which means lame. She was a clod and thus the name worked. The haunted beauty with the mysterically green eyes? I named her Jade. Also, I liked mythical and biblical or literary names. Someone meant to evoke thoughts of the ever-faithful wife might be named Penelope (Jack, take note!) or if I wanted to conjure up images of a guy who would face unsurmountable odds and win – David. Things like that. Those names have their uses and places. But really, when I was using them, they were totally…lacking in subtlty.
These days, whether its creating names in some fantasy realm – Sarios, Damaiar, Lourdan, and Safyr – or in my modern day fantasy novel, “Incandescence”, I really do not go looking for names. At least not for the main characters. They generally just organically appear on the page as I write. Hannah and Michael Brighton. Granmama Adina. Alexander. Summit. Shalisa. Evander. Jonas. Gideon.
Other names, I am not ashamed to admit, come to mind as homages to folks who exist in my real world. Hopefully they will be honored, not vexed, to find that characters such as Isaac, Professor McCormick, Jeremy, Zebulon, Rote, Nguyet, Emily and so on were named after them.
For important characters – names just seem to happen. For secondary, tertiary, one-offs, and other back ground types, I rely on… whatever is around. Phone books are great for surnames and placenames. Business cards, advertisements, tv, the interwebs… Anything goes. If it suits the situation and setting, it stays. If not – I just keep looking.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I do not have a real strong “process” for naming my characters, not anymore. If a character doesn’t name herself, or come pre-equipped with a name, I have to go in search of it. Which is why my first drafts are often littered with OLDGUYNAMEHERE and ANGRYKIDNAMEHERE… and when it comes time to fill-in the blanks, well… I’ll let you know. I’m still working on “Incandescence” and there several INSERTNAMEHEREs to fix.
How do you name your characters? Does inspiration flash while you’re making up outlines? Do the names come first and the characters come later?
And while we’re on the naming kick – how do you come up with your titles? Because WOW – I have trouble with titles. If you ever happen upon the WIP page of my website, you will notice that every single title is a Working Title. Because I have no idea how to name books, I simply refer to them all by a characters name (for example: Rudabet), a theme, a phrase that relates to the plot (ex: The Light of Lun), or even acronyms (ex: PASaRN).
So – I’m going to change my question. How do you come up with solid titles for your poems, novels, shorts, papers, series, et cetera?! Because that is what this writer needs to know. *grin*
Love & Rainbows,