By Laura Drake
In the spirit of full disclosure, the seed for this blog was something I read over on Writer Unboxed about quirky character names. It got me thinking. I don’t know about you, but character names are as important to me as my titles . . . you don’t go messing with them (she sends up a prayer up to the Gods of publishing.)
I spend a lot of time naming my characters. What do I use as a criterion? Danged if I know. But I know a character’s name when I see it. I use Baby Names , or if the name must be ethnic, I use Baby Names Garden.
But really, that’s only a jumping off place. I usually know a lot about the character before I name them, so it’s really a matter of what name resonates with me when I hear it. Does that guy look like a Kale? This is obviously, totally subjective, and some of the logic resides with the girls in the basement, not with me, so I can’t be really clear about some of what goes into my naming.
Did you ever think about memorable names in books you read? I can probably take a guess at why Margaret Mitchell chose Scarlett for her Herone’s name, but why did Fitzgerald choose Jay and Daisy for The Great Gatsby? What made J. D. Salinger choose Holden for his protagonist in Catcher in the Rye? There were people in the basement in on that those – don’t tell me there weren’t.
I don’t know where the names in my head come from, but I’m finding to commonalities: I like boy names for girls (Stevie, Dani, Sam) and I love, love, love, nicknames. Here’s a few from my books:
Charla Rae (yes, I borrowed it, with permission, from our own Sharla Rae) who goes by Char, or Little Bit.
James Benton who goes by Jimmy or JB.
I even have a nickname for their animals – Char’s horse’s name is Buttermilk, but since she’s fat, Jimmy nicknamed her Pork Chop.
I’m not the only one hung up on Nicknames, I’m in good company. How about Harper Lee’s (hey, there's a girl with a guy's name!) Scout, Jem, and Boo Radley?
Are you obsessive about your character names, or is it just me?
How do you choose them? Have you ever changed one?