Monday, June 7, 2010

Names Elisabeth Rose

One of my favourite bits in writing a story is naming my characters. The name has to be the right one and very often it will leap into my mind as the character takes shape, and become an integral part of the individual.

Sometimes I change names when the one I’ve chosen isn’t sitting comfortably. One story started out with a heroine named Rachel but I met a girl called Phoebe and because I really liked the name I changed Rachel to Phoebe. After a few uncomfortable weeks I realized she didn’t want to change! Rachel was Rachel and that was that. Phoebe is starring in her own story now and both girls are happy.

For my minor characters I often draw on family and friends. First names only, though. In my fictional City Symphony Orchestra (The Right Chord, The Tangled Web-- June 2010) my trumpet playing brother is Principal Trumpet and in The Tangled Web he performs a concerto with them. He loves that! My other brother is one of the percussionists and one musician friend is Principal Flute.

In my current work-in-progress I used friends as neighbours of my heroine. I told Sylvia and she thought it was hilarious. Nearly fell off her chair laughing when I added I’d given her another friend’s children--but only two of their three girls.

I much prefer to use standard traditional names not invented ones with weird spellings or ones my readers won’t know how to pronounce.

My writing name by the way, is my real first name complete with original European spelling, plus my Grandma’s surname.

What do you think about names? Any pet peeves?


I.J. Parnham said...

I'm with you that I have to get to know the characters well enough before they can decide if they're a Barney or a Clint. The big problem for me is that I hate having characters whose names are mildly similiar such as Sam and Jim or having them starting with the same letter. The result sometimes is that I change one person's name and that creates a conflict that means I have to change someone else's and someone else's and it ripples through the whole book and soon everybody's different and I have no idea what's going on any more.

Carol Hutchens said...

I'm like you. My characters are 'born' with names. But in my latest wip I'm having Ian's problem. My heroine named herself Mia. My hero needed a sharp harsh name...and came out Matt.

NOW, I'm having identity issues when I try to change one of the "M" names.

Enjoyed the blog.

Sandy Cody said...

I identify with both Ian and Carol. I don't like characters with names too much alike and, yet, sometimes have trouble relating to my characters when their names are changed.

And, like you, Lis, I prefer straightforward names with logical spellings. They seem more real to me if they have "real" names.

Elisabeth Rose said...

Ian, I suppose Western characters would have their own fashions in names as would historicals. Wouldn't do to call a Regency heroine Kylie for example or even Wendy!

Almost anything goes in a contemporary but as everyone has mentioned, names starting with the same letter or with a similar sound can cause great confusion.

Beate Boeker said...

I agree with all of you - and have one other pet peeve: I hate it when animals have people's names. I recently read a book where the dog was called Caroline - and I kept wondering half the time who Caroline was. In real life, they can have any name they want. In books, I find it confusing, as I have to remind myself that this is "that dog".

Elisabeth Rose said...

LOL Beate. In my book The Right Chord the dog is called Woof. No doubts there!

Sandy Cody said...

I have a cat named Smokey in my coming Avalon book. But there's a dog named Henry in a non-Avalon book I'm trying to sell. (Maybe that's why no one is buying.)