I go to insane extremes sometimes to name my characters, probably because I have utterly no memory for names. So unless I call a character Drogo or Dunstan, I’ll be calling him Billy in one chapter and Bobby in another. I kid you not. I just did that with a secondary character. For the Magic books, I had odd families steeped in history and legend, so I dug around hunting out the names of old saints or at least warriors of Celtic origin. For the Mystic books, I was playing with an Atlantis-like world, and I combined Greek, Roman, and a dash of Celtic. Needless to say, current baby name books do not work well with my idiosyncrasies.
On my shelf, immediately at hand so I can grab them the instant a new character appears, is Teresa Norman’s A World of Baby Names, The Cassell Dictionary of First Names, the Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, and Writer’s Digest Building Believable Characters because it lists common last names for different countries. Then there are the online resources… Well, you get the picture.
And what do I do with the latest proposal and this wealth of resources? I name my protagonists Nick and Nora. And I do not even realize I’ve done this until I’m on Chapter Three. There is a long and twisted explanation of how Nora got her name, and it made perfect sense with the plot and characters I was developing. So while I was typing out ideas, I shortened her Eleanora to Nora and she felt like a Nora, so I kept it when I started writing. Except Nick is one of my Rebellious Sons, and he’s already in two other books. I really can’t change Nick!
So now I not only have two protagonists whose names begin with the same letter, but I have a couple whose names are infamous throughout literary mystery circles. Maybe I can hope no one will notice. Anyone else out there familiar with Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora?
Anyway, for the writers among us, here’s a lovely blog by Ann Marble listing some of the pitfalls of naming characters: http://www.writing-world.com/romance/names.shtml. You will notice her warning about temporary names sticking in your head. Wise lady. But do I heed any of these warnings? Of course not. I know better, but there’s something about that subconscious connection with a name and a character that simply demands particular letters and sounds and connotations. In my next release, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, (link is to my updated website where there's an excerpt) Fitz and Abby had lots of other names. They even called each other by nicknames—often and not always politely. <G> But they were Fitz and Abby in my mind from page one.
Admit it, most of us would rather change our own names because they don’t suit how we see ourselves. What would your name be if you could choose it? Why? How did you choose names for your kids? (I gave mine family names and a unique name that was adaptable in several ways so they could play with them as they grew older. And this was before I was published!) So, what goes into your thinking about names?