Thursday, 12 January 2012

WriYe Blogging Circle post 2: Naming Characters

Hot on the heels of my post on character depth comes one on character naming.

(I joined the circle late, so I'm a little behind and had to do two posts right away. My poor blog has not seen so much activity... well, ever. If the server crashes we'll just call it karma and hope it recovers quickly.)

So how do I name my characters?

Not surprisingly, I spend some of my time on baby naming sites. I usually have a vague idea of what the character looks like and what his/her role is in the story and often he/she is an impatient silhouette on the skyline of my brain, tapping his/her foot and demanding that I get on with the naming and describing process already. My favourite resource isn't a baby naming website, though. It's a book - The Complete Book of Baby Names, by Bruce Lansky.

If it wasn't dark I'd take a photo of this rather battered book and post it here, because it deserves the recognition. TCBBN has been soaked in urine, smeared with faecal matter and amniotic fluid and had the back cover torn off. It's had the spine glued back together, the poo cleaned off with eucalyptus oil, pages mended, the cover replaced and finally received a covering of expensive clear sticky-backed plastic as part of a book repair module during my brief attempt to become a library technician.

Now, admit it - after reading that you're horrified that anyone would treat a book like that and still call it a favourite. You might also be wondering about the soakings in bodily fluids and wondering how the heck all that stuff happened. Just how do I name my characters, anyway?

Truthfully, none of those things happened during character naming sessions. This book is in fact my number one goat-naming resource. Newborn goats are messy and really have no regard whatsoever for what might be under their hooves at any given time. If they need to relieve themselves and poor TCBBN is on the floor... well, that's just too bad. I can't even begin to tell you how glad I am that the plastic covering is waterproof.

So, when I need to name a character I reach for that same book, steeped in personality and years of use, that serves me so faithfully during kidding season. I flick through it, remembering goats whenever I happen across a name that belongs to one of them and then imagining whether that impatient silhouette would like to be a Sabra or a Clea or maybe a Bess...

... and with that decision made, my character will be one step closer to reality.


  1. Poor book. But it's always our most loved that are most read, right? (Right? I hope so.) And that means broken spines, frayed pages, sometimes yellowing pages (depending on the age) that just show our love.

    I should look into this book. I usually use an online naming website but I never say no to a good book!

  2. I do something similar, though I have to admit, I've added a step recently. I've found I have a penchant for M names and J names. Since I don't want all of my characters names sounding the same, I've set up a spreadsheet with all the letters of the alphabet and write the character name there. If I already have Megan, Mark, and Matthew, maybe the next character shouldn't be Mary. Same goes for Jessica, James, and Jenny.

  3. Interesting that you spend most of your time on baby naming sites. I always write down the character names from books that I've read, people that I meet and I raid my spam box for ideas. And I pick the name first, and form the personality/character from there. I don't know why. Great post!