Character names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.
It was my mom’s name. 😐
Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.
As a Reader
I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:
- Any of my parents (I have 4)
- My Kids
- One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
- A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
- And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews
That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!
Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.
The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).
More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.
Just. Ain’t. Happening.
I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?
As a Writer
When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write!
Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:
1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.
2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!
3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.
With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.
The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀
While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.
Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].
Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺
♥ Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?
♥ Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?