Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Names

Do you name your characters, or do they name themselves?

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen authors struggling to come up with names for their characters. You'd think, "Well, we're the writers. We can just give them whatever name." And you'd be wrong. I can spend a hundred years telling a character he's named Dave, and he'll spend just as long denying it. It's like a mother trying to feed her stubborn baby, and not even the airplane or choo-choo game is gonna work. Because when it comes to making characters, they may not know what their names are, but they sure as heck will know what isn't right for them.

I could have tried to name my boogeyman something dark like Malthus, but no, he very much insisted he was Dave. I had a character quite clearly tell me her name was Heather when it had been years since I'd even known a Heather. I threatened another character with naming him Ashley if he didn't cooperate, and surprise, he actually liked that one. And I am not the only author that encounters this sort of situation. Sure, there are likely some people who decide for their characters, but more often than not, the person I'm writing tells me who they are.

Is this something you experience when writing, or do your characters accept the names you give them without a fight 100% of the time?


  1. That's interesting; I've never really paid attention to that when I write (because I don't really have characters to name, I guess). But I agree with you that sometimes, a name just fits. It just feels right.

  2. Yeah, I hear of people combing through baby names, and it Just doesn't make sense to me.

    Many of my characters know exactly who they are. The rest of them may not always know what name they want, or would be equally happy with any of a set of names, but they definitely know what they DON'T want. Then again, I have no problem waiting for years even for the right name to come up, and giving my characters silly names or placeholder names in the interim.

  3. Not just that characters name themselves, they mostly tell me their stories as well. Well done on the N post.


  4. I do not write enough to answer that.
    When I was in a writning group, the homework was to give each other a one liner to write from. I was given the name Frank, as a character..resisted that so much- forgot to ask Frank who he actually was

    zannie A-Z hopper