Naming characters is serious business. Very serious business. Research findings tell us that a person's name helps or hinders their success. Why? Names trigger thoughts and memories and emotions. Why do you think so many celebrities change their name? And we know writers change their names as well. The reasons for the change are varied (i..e, simplify, stand out), but the outcome is the same. The name change brings about a desired response from people.
Every writer has their way of finding just the right name for their characters. Some gather names from favorite stories or movies. Some look to influential places or people in their life. And sometimes authors just make them up. FUN! Regardless of how the name comes to be, the name must fit the character. It must support a tone, an image. A person named Christopher cannot pull off mean. Bratty maybe, but not mean. Nope. Christopher is too . . . guy next door. Mean guys have names like Snape, Darth. Damen. Have you ever met a mean girl named Grace? If you have, keep that to yourself. It will ruin the point of my blog. The point? Names add an extra layer to your story. They help carry the tone and meaning.
My story, The Diyari Chronicles, has a strong spiritual undertone. All the main characters received a biblical name. My character follows a similar trajectory as their biblical counter part. If the reader knows the biblical character, s/he gets great hints about my character’s actions. And for the few characters who walk through my story without a biblical guide, their names have meaning. For instance, one character hunts people. His name, Jaeger, means hunter.
For my current story, The Collector, my name choices are a mixture of sound and meaning. Let me explain. I usually spend hours in a baby book or flipping through old books. But this time, each character told me their name. And I think each picked a good name. The mean girl’s name, Tabitha Sinclair (a.k.a. Tabby), just screams pain in the fanny. And she is a pain. I didn’t even look up her name. I didn’t need to. I mean, come on! Tabby Sinclair. Does that sound like a nice person? And if you happen to be named Tabby Sinclair, I’m sure you are the exception to the rule. ;-) To appease the masses (all three of you), I looked up the meaning of Tabitha. Beauty and grace. She is beautiful and graceful. And mean. When my narrator, Olivia (a.k.a. Liv), announced her name, I knew it was perfect. And learning the meaning—peace—sealed it. Peace is her destination. And the dreamy guy with the great eyes? That’s Caden. He’s a survivor, a fighter. To my surprise, his name means spirit of the fight.
Hopefully you get the point. Names can add that extra magic to a story. They are just as important as the story itself. And if you pick well, you can start a trend. I mean, thanks to Twilight, Isabella will be a popular name for this generation. Just like the novel (turned movie) Love Story, led to many baby girls being named Jennifer in the 1970's. I happen to know five such girls. Yes, you read correctly. I have five friends named Jennifer. See? Character names leave an impression.
So, how do you pick names for you characters? Or what do you think are great character names?