Monday, November 25, 2013

Character Naming Part 3: Are Significant Names Important?

In parts one and two we discussed how to first gather names and then organize lists to help you choose the perfect name for your character. However, if we jump back a little, think about this: you want to find the perfect name, but how much thought do you wish to put into your research? We all drool over and revere those creators who used something so simple as a name to convey a greater meaning; is this best for your story?

For example, though I haven't read the Harry Potter books, I know author J.K. Rowling is rather famous for her anagram names and names with a special story meaning them. Hermione is the female verson of Hermes, who in Greek mythology was the patron saint of high magic. If you've read the books or seen the movies, you'll know that the character Hermione is very gifted in her powers. Though I personally will not read Rowling's books, I have great respect for her care in the names she chose.

Another example is from the movie Inception. Nearly every character's name has a meaning, but specifically Cobb's wife; she is called Mal, which means "bad," and she was portrayed as evil in many of Cobb's dreams. A simple but significant meaning.

(**If you're interested in discovering if more of your favorite characters have significant meanings in their names, I suggest starting with The Hunger Games. There are a couple of articles written online about the characters' names, and I found it quite fascinating.)

If you've ever researched the meanings of names from different stories, it can be very inspiring, and you may find yourself pumped to do the same thing. However, I will warn you: it could hold you back.

Searching for special names with specific meanings can be a lot of fun, and also at times frustrating if you can't find a name to fit the perfect meaning. I remember one time I was developing a character name, and I spent hours trying to find the perfect name. I finally had a few names that had the right meaning, but none of them fit the character otherwise. I was exhausted, upset, and I still kept searching. Eventually, I just had to stop and search for an average name, and I ended up finding the perfect name.

Sometimes a character just doesn't want to cooperate with your grand schemes. They need simple, tried and true names. Yes, having a character name with special significance can add depth when you first discover it, but remember, adding meaning to a name for your benefit and for curious readers' benefits can be interesting, but the character himself doesn't have any idea, and it doesn't add his story.

If you enjoyed this little series on naming characters, please vote on the poll to the top right of the blog! :) (closed)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Character Naming Part 2: Organizing and Minimizing

In part 1 of Character Development, I threw around some ideas of how you can compile a list of names for your characters. (How many of you were able to try some of those methods in the past week? Let me know in the comments!)

So, now that you have your (probably) long list of favorite names, here are some ideas on how to start organizing and minimizing your names.

Taking the example of just searching for one particular character, I'd suggest organizing the names into alphabetical order. Separate the first, middle, and last names either into 3 separate sheets of paper (or 3 piles of index cards, whatever you used) or, if you used a program like Stickies on your computer, sort everything into 3 sticky notes.

Go down through your first names and read them out loud; whichever name doesn't immediately jump out at you or at least give your mind a little tug, eliminate. (Tip: Don't get rid of that name forever. Get it out of sight, but save it in another document or on another piece of paper. Later on if no other names work out, come back to it, or save it for future characters.) Chances are, if you don't feel a tug towards the name right away, you won't later.

--> If you have a picture you use as inspiration for your character, now is the time to keep it nearby. As you read off names you can see which ones look and sound best with your character.

Go down through your "revised" list several times, trying different middle and surnames with each name. Don't get discouraged if your favorite name doesn't sound right with the surnames you picked. You can probably work around it by at least choosing a different surname (or perhaps you might discover having a surname isn't all that important to the story!).

At this point you might find yourself with two or more names that you think are perfect, or at least close to it. Don't stress; in fact, it's probably better that you do, because the elimination process isn't necessarily over. There's still a lot to consider in deciding on the perfect name.

However, you may have one name that you keep thinking about. If so, take that one and, if you have any other character names picked out for the same story, make a "cast" list. You'll want to make sure that you don't have all your names starting with the same initials or containing the exact same amount of syllables. You might find that right there will help you determine which name from your minimized list is the best.

One last step in this process: google your final contestants. You may not realize it, but that brilliant name you just pieced together might be the name of a famous scientist, or the name of an already existent character. Just as an example, I've been toying with a story idea for a few months now. I used many of these processes I'm discussing with you in creating the male lead's name, and finally decided on Aaron Palmer. I adored the name, but something wasn't setting right. It sounded so...familiar. A month after I chose the name, I was in the store and saw a can of Arnold Palmer tea. It had taken me forever to make the connection consciously, but obviously something in the back of mind was trying to force me to use a name I'd already heard before. Definitely be cautious in this area; you don't want people to think you're copying.

In part 3 we'll close with discussing if "significant" names are important to a story. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Naming Part 1: Where to Start

My favorite part about planning a new story idea isn't necessarily pulling together the plot and outline (mainly because I make most of that up as I go and don't usually flesh out an outline). For me the excitement is in developing the characters, from their physical appearances and characteristics to background story and future actions. For the next few blog posts, I'm going to share with you how I go through the process of naming my characters.

For some people, like me, this comes fairly naturally. I can spend hours picking out a specific name for a character yet have fun doing it. Others can just pick any name they want and be fine with it - which is totally okay, too. However, maybe some of you struggle with figuring out the perfect name, or maybe you want to learn how to flesh out your development process. Here's how I begin:

First and foremost - baby naming sources. Like candy in the middle of a salt factory. Baby naming sources can be in the form of books, from specific baby books to character naming books (I own The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook 2nd Edition). However, for a quick search, and what I use mostly, some websites to try out are and (heads up: different sites can contain different origins and meanings. Occasionally you may have to try a few different sources to make sure you have the most accurate). Not only is there a nearly unlimited resource of baby names on these sites, but you can also refine your search for specific gender, origin, and meaning. Do you have an strong-willed Irishman as your protagonist? Perhaps you should call him Liam.

If you want to try a different route other than baby name sources, one idea is to simply compile a list of first, middle, and last names of your family, friends, and acquaintances. You might have a best friend named Emily Jane Gould, a cousin named Hannah Rae Devore, and a co-worker named Audrey Monroe. Mix it together, and perhaps you like Audrey Rae Gould.

Another fun way is to pop in your favorite movie or TV show and take a look at the credits; what are your favorite names on that list? This is also a great resource to use if you want creative names. C'mon, we've all seen those names roll by and do a double take - they're pretty crazy awesome.

The "easy" way out is to look up a name generator site. I'm not condemning this method at all (sometimes I will use it for surname ideas), but for me personally, it takes the fun out of the process.

>>Next week in part 2 we'll flesh this out and discuss how to organize your compiled names.<<

How do you compile a list of favorite character names?

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Favorites


November is a hard month for me. I say goodbye to the far-too-short Autumn, the weather starts to turn cold, snowflakes are beginning to spit here and there, and days grow darker. However, I can come to this list and be made cheery again. So here we go!

1) New tabs

I've mentioned a couple of them before but just wanted to remind y'all, plus I added a new one. Underneath the blog header, as you probably saw, is a series of tabs leading to other pages in which you can learn more about the blog and me. The 2 I want to point out today are the Ask Me! tab, where you can leave a comment about anything from a question about writing to suggestion for a review, and the new tab is my Contact Me. I've added some new ways in which you can contact me and follow updates on my writing + the blog, so please check those out! :)

2) Geek sweater

    My bestie gave this to me for my birthday last month - is this not the best sweater you've ever seen?! Not to mention it's probably the most comfortable sweater I own now. Plus, if it's angled certain ways, as you can see here, it also says EEK. Win win. It's a favorite this month because, well, it's awesome, plus this is the sweater I wore when I did an incredible amount of writing last week. Maybe it has powers…. *cough*

(And an extra picture because…I got bored trying to find the best picture to show off the sweater ;) )

3) New desk

    I finally got my new desk! Thanks to a friend for putting it together last week, my room is finally starting to feel complete (for those of you who don't know, I just repainted it and am completely changing the decor. Mwahaha. Also, ignore the ugly carpet). Isn't it perty?

4) First draft of my novel

If you follow me on pinterest or check the blog regularly, you probably saw that I completed the first draft of my WIP last week! I'm thrilled to be finished and a little anxious for what's next, but ready to meet the challenge. More on that to come.

5) AlyssaBeth Photography

My best friend, Alyssa, just created a blog for her freelance photography. She doesn't have many posts up yet, but I'd highly recommend checking the site within the next couple months. She does amazing work, and her pictures can be so inspirational for a story :) Check out her blog here.

6) My Writing Playlist

I don't always listen to music while I'm writing, but occasionally I'll bring up the ol' iTunes and let my "writing playlist" roll. I created this playlist probably around 9 months ago. It's a very wide mix of songs, and most of them work well with my current WIP (I have several different playlists depending on which genre I'm writing). To just give a glimpse, a few of the songs on my playlist are Mordred's Lullaby by Heather Dale, Skyfall by Adele, Skyrim by Lindsey Stirling and Peter Hollens, a couple Imagine Dragons songs, and Arwen's Vigil by The Piano Guys. There are ten other songs, which I shall keep a secret for now ;) 
(Who would like to see a full recommended playlist? Leave a yes or no in the comments, and as a bonus you can tell me what kind of music you usually listen to while writing, and I'll create one! You can comment on pinterest as well. If you would like one made specifically for YOU, find the Ask Me! or Contact Me tabs under the blog header comment using one of those ways. C'mon, who doesn't like playlists?)