Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's in a Name

Hmmm, okay I'm sitting here trying to come up with another post as the one I had planned got accidently deleted. So my first reaction was to blog on setbacks because let's face it, writers will face many setbacks in their career, and you just have to roll with the punches as they say.

But - I thought that was a bit pessimistic and I need something fun to blog about. That said, I'm going to talk a bit about selecting names for characters. I've been asked often if I choose the characters first or the plot. Well, I don't plot, but I do get an inkling of an idea first before choosing characters. After I have an idea of what kind of character I want, I select a name. Not just any name. I go through a long process of finding the perfect name to fit a particular character profile.

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? "Eggsactly." The name and character profile go hand in hand. I pick a "working name" then draft a character sheet for each one. With this, I rely heavily on astrology. Picking a sun sign allows me to start with a basic list of characteristics. Next, I plug the name into a numerology site. I LOVE this site as it gives me a description of my characters inner self. If the name doesn't fit, I tweak it until it does. The site I use is Sun Angel. For historicals, I also check the ethniticity of the name and the origin. A good site for that is Behind the Name.

Last night, I performed this ritual on characters for a new project. Two of the characters had names that perfectly fit the personality I wanted them to have. Tucker Bolen and Carione Barock. But I had to change my original last name for Rayne to Rayne Novak. He's a secondary character but a very important secondary character.


Kimber Chin said...

Wow, you do put a lot of work into picking your names. Ciara, I've been learning so much from you.

Me, I start with the personality and then work backwards to find a name that fits the personality.

Anne James, my heroine from Breach Of Trust, is very good at being forgettable so I had to find a forgettable name (Jane Smith was too much of a groaner).

Candace Morehouse said...

I do the same thing with my characters - give them a birthdate so I know their sun sign. I am also very picky about last names. I often go onto sites that list surnames by country of origin. I hate using generic ones, like "Garcia" for someone who is Hispanic.

One problem I have is the tendency to give everyone a name that starts with the same first letter (like Andrea, Angelica, Anne) which can be very confusing for readers. That's one thing I have to watch out for.

But it sure is fun to "make up" a person from their name, to their habits, to their foibles.