Please welcome Susan Muller to the blog today talking about one of my favourite topics. Names!
Take it away, Susan!
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.