Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's In A Name?

In a word?


Today I remembered something my mother said to me, or maybe it was my sister, or my distant cousin from my father's side. I babble. Back to the point...someone asked me "How do you come up with these names?"

The question is easy to blow off with a "they just come to me" but in truth, there is method to my madness.

When I think of naming a character, the first thing I do is think of what I want to name the character for short or if I want a short name at all.

Let me take a new WIP I'm working on. It's a mer-folk book and I wanted the heroine's name to flow as if through water. Not hard consonant to gum up the works but soft, watery sounds. I came up with Aeraeeania (Pronounced Air-uh-ee-on-ya) and I call her Aera (Air-uh like Era).

But what about non fish-folk? What is my criteria for them?

First, I don't want a name that is common. No Jennys, no Brittanys, no Emilys, no Julies. Why?

Well this might sound ridiculous to some but... I don't want someone to put my book down because the name of my heroine, is the name of their exes new girlfriend, or the name of the 20-year-old their husband just cheated on them with.

On the flip side of sister, Rachel, will pick up a book if the heroine's name is Rachel so maybe I'll lose out on that dollar.

Nah. I've come up with a hybrid!

When I pick a name that is popular I spell it different or mix two names together.

For my erotics, written under this pen name, I have two WIPS in the works. The heroine for my space opera, Maiden Voyage, is named Lilene. (A mixture of Lillian and Marlene.) In my M/M/F shifter story, my heroine's name is Jayna. (A mixture of Kayla and Jane.)

What about men? I give less thought about male names than I do women names. Oddly enough, given what I know about relationships and women (and being a good listener over the years)...we'll torture ourselves by buying a book with our exes name in it. Very rarely do we hate enough to put a book down but even then, we eventually "forgive" the name. (Okay, maybe not ALWAYS.)

Now if a fellow woman does us wrong... FORGET IT. That name is doomed for all eternity...or until we find a woman with that name that becomes a good enough friend of ours to negate the negativity surrounding that blasphemous name.

You may or may not agree, but this is my theory and therefore, why I "come up with" the names that I do.



Stephani Hecht said...

I don't think this post could have come at a better time since I am trying to come up with names for a new series I'm starting for eXtasy. Sometimes I just wish I could have a book with a guy named Dick and a gal name Jane and her adorable side-kick shifter friend named Spot.

Bryl R. Tyne said...

Great topic, Allure. I tend to name my characters based on the meanings and origins of the name. If one of my guys is a Hispanic from Brazil, for example, I will start by referencing baby name sites and scan through the Hispanic boy names. When doing so, the guy's personality weighs heavy on my decision. If he's a jackass, I will try and hook him up with a name meaning arrogant or proud. Same goes with a hero who is a saint... But, sometimes, I just grab a name out of the air and it sticks.

Whatever works, I guess. :)


Ava March said...

Now you've given me something to worry about when naming heroines. LOL. Heroine names are the hardest for me to come up with. If they don't pop into my head, then it takes me forever to settle on one. I use a baby namer frequently, like Bryl, when I'm searching for a name. I also keep a list of names I like for future use. Hero names are easier for me. I don't know - it's like there are more cooler options for a guy's name versus a girl. Or maybe because I'm a woman, I'm pickier about heroine names. Whatever the case, I am picky about names and put a lot of effort into selecting the right name for a character, both first name and last name. Sometimes I go with common guy names - like Henry - because it fits the guy. Othertimes, more uncommon names - like Aleric or Arsen. And yes, I seem to have a preference for names that start with a particular letter. I have a few heroes so far with names starting with 'A'. Likely a product of using a baby namer - it takes time to scroll all the way down to the S's and T's. LOL.

Steph - I dare you to write a book with Dick, Jane and Spot. You could totally pull it off, too ;)

Anonymous said...

I use a baby name book mostly. But I found your comment about doomed names funny. Erin is mine. My hubby's b*tchy old girlfriend who didn't want him but didn't want me to have him either! Every time I hear it, just for half a second, I want to hunt her down and sock her in the nose!(G) Cheryl

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

I've used both common and far-out names, but I tend to prefer simpler ones. Maybe because they're easier to type thousands of times? But I do use an international baby name site too, and often the meanings come into play.

I currently have a character named Steve who now that the book's done needs a new name. When I started the book, he wasn't the hero of the next one--now he is. So Steve has got to go.