Names . . .
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
— SHAKESPEARE, Romeo and Juliet
The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers. – MARSHALL MCLUHAN, Understanding Media
As a writer, picking character names can be the most difficult, and the most enjoyable, part of the process, and apparently I’m not alone.
How many authors do you see on Facebook, blogs, newsletters asking for suggestions? Some even offer to feature the person suggesting the winning name as a “walk on” in their novel!
Since I write about folks primarily in the South, I’ve found that Google is one of my best friends in name-picking. There are some name generators out there, but for contemporary or historical fiction, I’ve found a few searches that made the name-picking much easier.
My favorite resources
“The Most Common Last Names in Your State” by Reader’s Digest – https://www.rd.com/culture/most-common-last-names/
“Top 50 Southern Names and Their Meanings” Southern Living – https://www.southernliving.com/general/southern-names-meanings
Baby Name Wizard – helps in picking combinations, middle names, etc. – http://www.babynamewizard.com/
Popular Baby Names by Decade – Social Security Administration – lots of lists on this site! – https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/decades/
Most Popular Baby Names Through History – Baby Center – https://www.babycenter.com/0_most-popular-baby-names-through-history_1508595.bc
There are many more. The one place I did NOT find much help in naming my characters was the Name Generator in Scrivener. Here’s an example of a search for an English first name and an American surname:
Eh. For me, they’re just “Okay.”
If I were looking for general all-purpose names for secondary and tertiary characters, I might use this feature, but I like to be a little more choosy in my main character names.
What’s YOUR method?
What about you? What are some of your favorite ways to name your characters? Do you give your characters middle names? Do you ever find yourself at a cemetery looking at cool names, thinking “hmmm . . . that would be a great character name . . .”?
And what about first letters? I found myself over-using certain letters – they can be right up there with “weasel words” if you’re not careful! You only need so many “J” or “C” names!
One more tip – when you write a secondary character, don’t forget to give them a last name. You might just want to use that character in another book in the same series! I found that out the hard way!
Have a great President’s Day, a great WRITING day!!