Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Naming Names

It's always a process to name my characters. If their names are in another language, I try to search through names in that language for meaningful, revealing characteristics. Sometimes, it's just a matter of getting the right feel for a character. "No, 'Amy' feels wrong. She's more like a 'Susan,'" I'll think.

However, in ridding my office of its perenial migration of frost-fleeing beetles, I have discovered the possible root of another character's name:

Box Elder
_ox _lder
Fox Mulder

Ah ha! Bet you're all wishing you'd thought of it, yeah?


Seriously, though, how do you name your characters, your cities and cultures, their languages? What is that process like for you?


Kelly Swails said...

My biggest ally when it comes to names is my "40,001 baby names" book. Money well spent. Though it's not unheard of for me to change a name halfway through a project if it's not working for me. Sometimes a character just isn't Sasha. They're Tasha, dammit, and they won't be called anything else.

Erik Buchanan said...

I use name lists I find online (because God forbid I step away from a computer). If I'm working in a particular melieu, I like to keep the names the same, so everyone is Irish or Scottish or whatever, and you can generally find names (first and surname) by culture online.

Also, sometimes I make things up for the fun of it. The family of nobles who figure prominently in the book I'm working on now are all named after English kings. This will probably change once I'm done.

Kelly McCullough said...

My methods vary pretty widely. I pull sources online as Erik does, and change things pretty freely, like Kelly X. Beyond that though there's usually an underlying logcal schema. So, most of the characters in Winter have Shakespearian names and Black School has quintessentially English and Scottish names. But really, I go searching for names, and stop when I find one that tastes right. For me the text has to both look right in a wirterly and sound right in my head, since I mentally speak the script as I'm writing.

Anonymous said...

I'm fond of Kelly X's method (I have three Baby Name books I consult regularly), and then I also use the phone book because I only have one book of surnames and it's very, very British.

Kelly McCullough said...

that'd be look right in a "writerly way" not the garble I actually posted.

Anonymous said...

My biggest difficulty with names is that there are names you just won't ever hear in Harlan County, Kentucky. Nobody names their kids Sierra, Kendall, Kendra, Dakota, or whatever the hip, happening popular name is right now. Everybody's named Earl, Jeremy, Jacob, Hank, Elizabeth, Amy, or Sarah. And now that I'm on book four and down several generations through the family tree, coming up with names is a real chore - but I think I'm about finishing writing this family...