What’s in a Name?

Finding the right name for a character can be almost as daunting as finding the right name for a new baby. Maybe more difficult. With both my children I had names picked out almost from the moment I learned I was expecting, and never had a change of heart the entire nine months of pregnancy. But I only had to come up with one first name and a middle name. The surname was a piece of cake. When writing a novel, one must come up with first and last names for multiple characters. That can be a challenge.

For Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort there were at least a dozen folks who needed names. My main character’s name, Paula Jean Arnett, came to me before I even began writing the book, but the others weren’t so easy, and most I changed multiple times before typing The End.

I’d given one male character what I thought was an innocuous name and then about halfway through writing the book I realized there was someone from my high school days with that name and I really didn’t like him at all. Thanks to “Find and Replace” my character soon had a much less offensive moniker.

The only problem with Find and Replace is that one must be certain that the name being replaced isn’t part of a larger word. I changed a character’s name from Carrie to Stacy in the romance I’m working on and then realized that any place I’d had something carried it was now being stacyd, as in Barton stacyd a six pack of beer to the car.

And why, one might ask, did I need to change a perfectly good name like Carrie? Because in Mayhem I’d named a major character Cassie and when working on the romance I kept calling Carrie “Cassie.“ Thanks to one of my beta readers (Ann) for catching that.

If you write fiction how do you come up with characters’ names? I tried using name generators, but the results never sounded right. There are so many possibilities out there, so why is it so difficult?

Peace, people.

Author: nananoyz

I'm a semi-retired crazy person with one husband and two cats.

30 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

  1. HA HA. So true. And like that if I can’t get a name I give them a working one. I once read how some author had changed the name from David to Kevin, forgetting they had mentioned Michelangelo’s David…. .I am not going to ask what his Kevin was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have multiple short stories series everywhere and keep thinking I need to come up with a spreadsheet. Especially for names of characters that don’t feature heavily in a story, like the husband’s name that gets mentioned once or twice but isn’t part of the nitty gritty plot.

    It’s a lot of work!

    I love the 3Ms thing you did. That was VERY clever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I keep a running list of names in a notebook and refer to it pretty often especially in regard to those names mentioned infrequently.

      And I wish I’d given the M’s names beginning with B. Then I could have referenced Goldilocks and the 3B’s…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you think that it might be subconscious? Do writers want interesting, unique names to make a character stand out so the book itself stands out? Does a writer’s brain reckon that if they use George Jones or Sally Smith their characters are just going to be flat and unlikable? Or maybe readers have all made so many generalizations about specific names (stereotypes if you will about anyone named Marcia or Hussein) that their characters just won’t be believable in the context of that specific setting?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe you’re right about feeling the need to make one’s characters memorable. Plus, as a former teacher, there are so many names that conjure up memories—some great, some not so great. It’s a good thing I had kids before I went into teaching; otherwise I’d probably just have called them Thing 1 and Thing 2.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t have a difficult time with names as they sort of just happened for me, which kind of fit with how unusual the whole process was for me. BTW… pretty sure if you add a space after your word or name when doing a find and replace, you won’t replace parts of bigger words. At least in MS Word.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Weird! My daughter and I had a conversation about this exact topic just yesterday. She also writes a lot of short pieces and finds herself using the same names which is not what she wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, finding the name is a difficult chore. My main character has been with me for over 20 years and she is a real person in my mind. Never deviated. Some day her story will be complete. I looked up your book on Amazon and I can’t wait to find the time to read it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can believe that! I purchased the book on my Kindle. I have gotten through your Acknowledgements. I know once I start, I will have a hard time putting it down. I’ve had to catch up on some things. I hope to read a bit tonight. I’m so excited for you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I ran into that with the romance. At first I thought it’d be fun to give a couple of characters my granddaughters’ names. Then I wondered if in a sequel those characters might become involved with the brother of my main character and he’s such a ladies’ man….I couldn’t imagine writing a love scene featuring my grands’ names! Those are hard enough to write without picturing my sweet girls involved!

      Liked by 1 person

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