Monday, July 12, 2010
Naming Your Characters
As a reader, I would like to see authors use real names and stop with the made-up ones. I want to read about characters I can relate to; a name that sounds normal. Yes, in other world, fantasy books, go ahead and call someone Phryanx and Xr24pq if you want. That's normal for whatever world you create.
Sure. Foreign countries, you say. Have to use foreign names. Okay. Go for it. What about Family names? Well, if it fits in your story and enhances it, then do it. Same goes for historicals. Spread them on your pages and I'll happily accept them but remember that if readers stumble over names that are foreign, family, or historically correct but hard to pronounce, they might get frustrated and not finish your masterpiece.
Your characters are your children. Would you name one of them "Zip-a-dee-do-dah"? I remember reading an article about a woman who named her child this because she so-o-o loved the song. Can you imagine an eighteen-year-old in high school with this handle? Forget that. What about elementary school? College? Business world? A well-built hunk, the hero in your book?
I once overheard a woman talking about "Perkins" and at first thought she was telling tales (no pun intended) about her dog. When she mentioned breastfeeding him I realized my mistake! Turned out Perkins was her maiden name so she gave it to her son as his first name. What would his nickname be? Perky? Can you visualize Mr. "Tall, Dark, and Handsome" being called “Perky”?
I once babysat for a darling child. Cute infant I loved taking care of. One day, the family's church called and a very embarrassed and apologetic woman said she needed to ask something for the baby's upcoming baptism. Her question? "Is Morgan Taylor (first and middle name) a boy or a girl?" Well, how would anyone know just by the name?
What do you think about the name Brooklyn? Boy or girl? Actually it's my dog's name. And, I've seen it used for both boys and girls. A teacher looking at the name on a list couldn't tell.
Naming characters after cities, states, whatever. Haven't we had enough of names like Dakota, Yuma, Jackson, Paris? Oh, don't get me started on Hollywood names! Apple? Someone named after a fruit? Do we need these names in your novels?
Please don't mix names to make them sound "prettier". Sharindalynn, Annalisajo, Marydeanne (I knew one in college)...you get the picture. And two-named first names like Billy Bob? Does it really fit in the culture you're creating and you just have to use it? (The tattooed name you see here is for a pet black widow spider.)
What happened with just using names like Mike? Nancy? Greg? Katie? I know people with these names. And those are the names I'd like to read in your book!
Photos: Flickr: graphic.ward, Anne Varak, and red5standing's photostreams.