Monday, May 16, 2011

Names and More Names

I've been thinking a lot about names lately. Partly because I'm starting to lay the groundwork for another book, and a big part of that is picking out the names. I always look for a mixture of common and uncommon names, because I can't decide which is worse--when all the characters have boring, generic names like Jane and John, or when everyone has soap opera names like Magnolia and Jock.

Please note that I don't have anything against the names Magnolia and Jock, if you happen to be named one of those things. Or Jane and John, for that matter. I'm talking about the balance of names as a whole. If you look at, say, a classroom, you'll usually find a nice mix. You've seen some of those names a million times. Some are familiar but not hugely popular--as a Carrie I usually fell into that category. I also fell into the category has-heard-every-prom-joke-known-to-man because of that pesky Stephen King book, but that's another story. And then, you'll see a couple of names that make you tilt your head like a confused dog and say, "What is THAT?!? Who names their kid THAT?"

I think books should be the same way. I think that for every Mrs. Swan your main character has for chemistry, she should also have a Mrs. Mihalovic for bio. And just with those names, I get a picture of the teacher in my head. Mrs. Swan is pretty chill, and she likes to be called Swannie because it's better than all the inevitable Twilight references. Mrs. Mihalovic is the sort of person who likes to give pop quizzes and refers to all of her students as "Miss" and "Mr."

And yes, those are two of the teachers in BTIB.

So I'm off to spend a little time with the baby name book, and then when people see it and get all excited, I get to tell them, "NO. I AM NOT HAVING ANOTHER BABY, SO DON'T ASK AGAIN." But what about you? How do you name your characters? What are your favorite names? Be forewarned...I'm naming. So please let me know if it's sacred and I can't use it for a bad guy.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought Missy was a fantastic name! Maybe I'm a little partial though because it's my name.... :)

Noelle said...

Did you have Mr. Swan in chemsitry in HS? Or was it just me? :)

I like names. I've had baby name books for years, because names fascinate me. But then, I don't know if you remember, but I fall into the category of "I've heard every 'First Noel' joke and every 'First Noel' rendition out there, so please don't sing to me." I had a rule when naming baby H. We had to be able to find her name on stickers. Because growing up, I could NEVER find my name on stickers, and it was so depressing.

Kelly Jensen said...

I've always used the same mains names for the couple of stories I've written. Probably problematic at some point, but it works for now.

I've always had a favorite name, period, not one I'd ever include in writing but one saved for a first daughter. It was one I didn't see much, but it was common enough.

Then something happened this year and it seems I can hardly open a book any more without seeing the name. EEEEPPP.

Unknown said...

I love when I find the perfect cast and their names fit perfectly. I just started a novel about a girl who falls mute after her two sisters disappear and so far the cast are named: Tenley (MC), Eleanor (creepy and misunderstood 14 yr old), Ash (love interest).

They work so well together! Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of characters some with intresting names (ace, lex, jude, shylo,) and others with common names (sammy, todd, jenifer, linzi) I think if I had to chose a favrorite name for a boy Ricky or Rick would be at the top I love the name Ricky for some reason X3

Ricky is also the name of one of my oldest OC's (7 years give or take) yeah there we go

my fave girl name..Abby or alice I'd have to say I also like my own name and kate very much

Marsha Sigman said...

I just posted about this last week and used celebrities as examples of people taking the original name thing wayyyy to far.

I'm all for the simple, easy to pronounce names but I also like your idea of a mix.

Most unusual name I've ever used is 'Tana' as my MC's best friend. It's the actual name of one of my fav bloggers, Tana Adams. I warned her ahead of time and if it's ever published there is going to be a big ole thank you on the acknowlegement page.

InĂªs "Selene" Cruz said...

I love the names Aislin and Angela. I don't really know why, though... I just think they're great names. For a boy... maybe Eric. Or Alex.

I fyou get tired of using books, there's a relly good place on the internet:

Good luck! (:

Larissa said...

Ooh I LIKE this post! The names usually come to me when I write, but I do have a tendency to go with normalish names. Your thoughts on the diversity of name weirdness make me think I should possibly remedy that, because you are right (of course).

Tere Kirkland said...

In real life, sometimes your name helps make you into the person you are now, and I think the same goes for naming characters.

For the most part, I prefer normal names, but some characters just won't let you call them Susan or Jean, you know?

LOL, sounds like you need an e-reader to download baby name books to so nobody will ask if you're expecting! ;)

Karen said...

Name jokes, gotta love 'em. My last name is Keyte but it's pronounced 'kite' so I have heard 'go fly a...' roughly two million times in my life.

Whirlochre said...

Personally, I've always had a problem with Hieronymus.

Claire Dawn said...

I'd never even thought of making Carrie jokes. Hmmm, ideas... lol.

I was actually recently trying to find an African name for one of my characters and poking around the baby name websites for one, thankful that noone in my Japanese office would wander by and ask if I was preggers :)

Usually I choose names to fit the story. My one (very very very) bad attempt at dystopian- back before it was popular had all made up names. And all the towns were named for ppl I met in India.

My more recent novels have been set in Barbados and I want to refelct that in the names: a mix of common American, African, super-traditional British - I don't think anyone names their kids Victoria or Elizabeth or Catherine in the US anymore, and if they do they don't call them by their full names- and completely made-up names.

Carrie Harris said...

Noelle: Yep. I named the character after Mr. Swan. Although she does not do MAGIC TRICKS like he used to. And yes, I remember your understandable aversion to that song. ;)

Love the name ideas, everybody! And I'm so glad I'm not the only one who obsesses over them a little.