Please welcome Susan Muller to the blog today talking about one of my favourite topics. Names!
Take it away, Susan!
Cindy, thanks for inviting me to share your blog today. The print edition of my novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, was released this week and it got me thinking about names.
Where do you get the names for the characters in your books?
Shakespeare may have thought a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but try naming your heroine by that flower’s family name, Rosaceae, and see how well that goes over with your readers. So, how important are the names you give your characters?
The answers range from vital to not at all, depending on who you ask. There’s no question that accuracy in historicals is important. A seventeenth century scullery maid named Madison or Jada would be laughed off the shelves.
In the 1950’s to the 1970’s, heroes were given names that sounded strong, masculine. Do you remember Sky King, Rock Hudson, and Remington Steele?
Today’s stories tend to have characters with contemporary names. On one extreme, many authors figure out the year their character was born and Google the most popular names for that year. This might be why so many books seem to feature main characters with the same names.
On the other extreme, is my friend who glances around her office and picks a name from books on her shelves. The third time she used a similar name, her editor sent her a book of baby names. Thoughtful, or a subtle hint?
Many writers use obituaries or tombstones as a source of names. This offers the advantage of multi-generational names plus a variety of ethnic names. Others writers use the names of friends or relatives. This can be risky when naming a villain.
For last names, I have discovered a treasure trove: football games. As the players take the field, the announcer reads off their names. Any that catch my fancy, I write down. This would work with basketball or baseball, depending on the season.
In my novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, I have a minor character that is Cajun on his mother’s side and Jewish on his father’s side. I Googled Cajun male names and he ended up named Remy Steinberg.
I love the juxtaposition of mismatched names. Jose Gustafson, Pierre McAlister, Sean Nguyen, Inga Blackfeather, Hans O’Brian, Clive Shultz.
Can you think of a mismatched name? I’m offering a free download of The Secrets on Forest Bend to the best, most off-beat example or the best, untapped source of character names.
Love the name you came up with for Remy. I’ve used sports as well to come up with last names.
Can’t wait to see if you win a copy of Susan’s book? You can buy it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
September 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Great post, Susan! Great book and some fantastic name ideas!!! I too love football games as a way of coming up with names, and if I ever come across a name (anywhere) that I like I’m sure to write it down on a running list I have so when I need a name, I can refer to my handy-dandy list and presto! My character is born!
September 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm
Shauna, I always intend to write down good names I come across, but … I’ll try harder next time.
September 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm
OMG, character names! Love this concept. It’s amazing what names authors come up with for their characters. I’ve noticed that sometimes they just don’t seem to fit with how the character is written. But, when the author has done her homework (like Susan’s mentioned) the name flows along with the story–it just, fits. As for how I come up with character names, it’s more mystery than science. I used to labor over the baby naming books and google. With practice, I’ve noticed lately that as I’m writing and a new character pops into the scene, his name seems to follow in short order. Just pops into my head. I usually go with that first impulse unless it’s just too crazy to fit the time period or the purpose of the character. I’ve read SECRETS ON FOREST BEND on my ereader but MUST run out and get the real deal so I can get it signed by Susan. It’s a fabulous book. Could…not…put…it…down!
September 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm
Thanks for the support, Jaye.
September 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm
Oh, wow! That’s an awesome idea. I can drool over the ballplayers while I take names. I wonder if I could call this a tax deduction! That would lock it in. Triple play!
Adam has always been a favorite name of mine. Such a strong alpha male name. I’m trying to remember Shauna’s nickname for the hero’s name in The Secrets on Forest Bend. Detective Hotness? Nah that’s not it. But it’s close. And it’s justified. Yum, what we wouldn’t do for a man like Adam.
Then again…. Noah Daugherty… now that’s a sexy name. And yes, I’m cheating cause it’s off Susan’s next book, and I’m letting the cat out of the bag! Ha!
Go to SusanCMuller.com for more about Noah after you’ve read about Adam in her latest release.
September 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm
Adam,then Noah. I hadn’t realized I was on a biblical kick.
September 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm
Not so creative, but I read the Bible a lot, so I’m always writing down the more remote names that people won’t recognize. Sometimes I even use names of things from biblical times. I decide the nationality of the characters, then turn to my handy baby name books based on nationality. I’ve even used twitter to help me decide between two or three.
September 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm
I keep a small tablet in my purse, and when I come across a name that I like or an idea, I write it down for future use.
As for a mismatched name, I came up with Donghai Barzakovsky for a guy and Twyla Huang for a girl.
Great post. Good luck with your book.