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name is trouble 18912044_sC: Character Names

Did you ever wonder how a writer comes up with character names? I think everyone has a favorite name—the name they should have given their child if only their last name wasn’t Schmidlapp; Giovanni would have been such a nice choice. Sometimes writers use these favorite names for their characters. They might build the entire character around the name, in fact.

I tend to build my characters and then decide what name fits. Not always, but I have that tendency. I think of whether that character would have a nickname, and how that would sound. Would it be one syllable or two? And if I’ve already built another character, how would they go together as a couple, or as villain and heroine? I virtually never have two names beginning with the same alphabet letter. I find that confusing to read, and I have read more than once that I’m not alone with that. Having Catherine and Camelia can make a person have to go back and reread to figure out who is doing what. Not a good dynamic between author and reader.

When I come up with last names, I think of ethnicities. Do I want my heroine to be an Italian-American? Would she be of Scots heritage? And how does that contrast or compliment my hero’s ethnicity? I’m also really careful about the names of villains. I don’t want them all to be of one heritage, or I start to look like I’m picking on one group or culture.

Names are important and can really start off the relationship between reader and writer well or badly.

So what’s your reaction to character names? Are you more likely to pick up a book with one of your favorite names among the leading characters?

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10 Comments

  1. Names are very important. Some even bring back memories of someone you knew as a kid! Good or bad.

  2. There are certain names that I read them I think of people I know with the same name especially if they act different than I think they should based on the name. It is amazing though how often the names just seem to fit.

  3. I don’t have any reactions to names or look for any particular one.

  4. Character names are very important to me, both choosing them for my work and reading them in others’ works. Usually my characters let me know their names and I don’t really have a choice. I had one character who kept trying to convince me to change his name (didn’t happen). When I read, I like names that I can pronounce in my head without having to sound it out each time and then still not knowing if I’m right. 🙂 Another great post, Trish!

  5. Yes, names are important. I hate Damien. Damien can do no good, even he was a saint in a book. Don’t like Italian names either, guys names that is. Do not care much for the slick Italian guys. Now girls, ah that is a different abc. I love the names of Italian girls, Yes, I’m a hypocrite, I know. And the romantic names. My girls have a face and the basis of each face is either the girl on the cover or the name.

    Names are important Patricia. It’s me bonding with your book.

  6. I am not very good at character names and realized that I tend to use some over and over, so I would like to be better about that. For last names, I tend to use colleges, dormitories or towns for inspiration. Hardly scientific.

  7. I agree on the pronouncable, and yet it’s pretty important for me to use at least some those ridiculously unpronouncable Irish names. Thankfully the world is becoming smaller and names are much less “boxed”

  8. I’m old fashioned. i like regular names. Sometimes I pick names first, and sometimes I build characters first. 🙂

  9. I like pronounceable names also.
    LOL, it took me forever to figure out I was pronouncing Hermiony and Dobby wrong.
    🙂

  10. I once read a reader discussion on Amazon in which someone said she found it hard to find a hero sexy if he had the same name as her brother. LOL. I can understand that. The one thing I don’t like in sci-fi is when the characters have names that look like a gibberish collection of letters. It makes it hard for me to keep track of who the characters are. So I try not to do that in my sci-fi. I think all of my names are pronounceable.

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