March 28, 2011

A Writer's Life - Naming names

To some it might come naturally. Others will dwell upon it for days, or longer. This quest for the perfect name is probably tougher than for parents-to-be who're searching for a name for their baby. Then again, maybe not. After all with a baby there are two people trying to find a common ground. With a book you're usually the only person to decide. Of course you have to make a whole lot of decisions unless the book's a one-(wo)man-show. But back to finding those names.

Naming your characters is sometimes easy, yet there are moments when the name that first comes to mind just doesn't seem right at all and you end up searching for a suitable one for ever. Admittedly though, most of the time when I think up a character the name is part of the package. Or I've got at least a general idea in what direction the name will go. The hard part is when I have a character right in front of my imaginative nose and he or she remains this entity that refuses to be named and will consequently smirk at you every time you offer a name you find suitable, but your character simply disagrees with your opinion. Alright, in case anyone's wondering whether I hold long conversations, not to say disputes, with figments of my imagination, than you're spot on. I do. I guess my imagination has reached the point where characters really do have a life of their own and they not only prove it when they refuse being graced with a name they don't like, but they quite often take over reins throughout the story too. Makes you wonder who's the story-teller after all.

Though, back to the names. Every writer will have their own sources when it comes to giving characters names. Some even use name creators which I personally tried out just for the fun of it, but with no intention whatsoever to use the results the computer presented to me. Not even for names meant for alien creatures on alien planets. I mean, seriously, if you manage to create whole new worlds you should be able to create names for the inhabitants of said worlds too.

Now, how am I generally going on a hunt for names?

First of all I have a penchant for Irish names, and secondly I often, though not always, look out for the meanings of names before I decide which one fits. Most importantly though, a name needs to sound right, and feel right. And while I usually stick to a certain name from the beginning, it does sometimes happen that I will change it for one reason or another.

Oh and not to forget another detail – I don't repeat names. Quirky, I know. So if a name has been used once than it belongs to this character and will not be shared. Hopefully I won't ever run out of names, or rather the good names, that way. Then again, I could simply revert to solely writing science fiction and invent new names on a weekly basis. Problem solved.

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