What’s in a name?

Letters. Bahahaha! Ahem. Beg your pardon.

When it comes to naming your child (be that biological or character), how do you decide on right moniker?

The president of my local RWA chapter, Beth Caudill, (click here for website) threw out the question of whether it’s harder to choose a first or last name for a character.  Many Facebookers responded with last names being the most difficult.

That surprised me. I find surnames much easier.

First names must be more ‘acute’ in their representation.  So much hangs in the balance with first names that if it doesn’t fit, the reader will know it.

Have you ever learned a new acquaintance’s name and thought, Your parents named a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy Mustafa?

Sometimes it takes several tries before the right one comes along.  But you’ll know it’s right when you don’t have to prod yourself to remember it.  What did I name that cheap hooker again?

My husband is a perfect unwilling example (for a wrongly-named man, not a cheap hooker). His first name chafes my sense of dignity. He’s a junior, and the name doesn’t fit him. So I call him by our last name. Bear. Now this fits him to a tee–he’s tall, dark and occasionally grizzly.

Surnames, aka last names, have a broader spectrum because they don’t have to personally represent the character down to every last detail. Sometimes their only purpose is to define the character’s place in the story.

For me, it is the first name that makes my eyes cross. How about you?


4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. I am definitely naming challenged. I’ve been known to insert a * in place of a name and write as much as 50 percent of a novel before actually giving the poor character a real name.

    • Regina,
      Wow! You can write that much without knowing a character’s name? I can’t even start writing until I know the people I’m pushing around. Sometimes the character’s come with a name tag. Other times, I’m drooling before it makes itself known. But never can I write until they’re named. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!!!

  2. I’m with you, Andris. If they won’t tell me their names, how can I tell their story? Sometimes I just KNOW. Sometimes I spend hours at babynames.com, looking for names that match a character trait I have in mind. Surnames are MUCH harder for me, especially since I write British-set historicals. They need to suit the time and place.

  3. Kat,
    I can’t grasp my character until I know who they are. I’ll general idea, but naming them brings it all home. Another great place to help with picking a name is behindthename.com. It allows you to look up names by meaning, origin and language. I believe it has a surname site as well! Love it!

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