N is for Names… Not that I have any.

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I knew this had to be my topic, as soon as I saw some of the other posts people are doing on the topic.

Names are a special kind of torment for me. I will fixate on just about any kind of name. I can’t name a minor character, much less a book, without obsessing over the implications and cultural details of whatever name is being considered. And, I’d like to know the character before I name him, so half the time, I just start writing, and figure the name will come later.

And yes, I use “placeholder” names. They all begin with tk (to make them easy to search and replace) and then a description of the character by role. MC. MCF(female). MCM(male.)And they get replaced when they get replaced. I used to put in silly names, but that’s how you wind up with a twelve-year-old named Herkimer, and by golly, those names stick. Herkimer refuses to give up and just be Jason.

Some of my names… particularly for very minor characters… have meanings. I like perfect participles, and I like names that help me keep track of the character’s role. Oh, yes. That’s the prostitute from chapter eight.

I wouldn’t give all the names in my books to flesh-and-blood children. And if someone else does… It’s probably a measure of success, when someone tells you they named their kid after your character, and then demands that you pay to change the name… Isn’t it?

7 thoughts on “N is for Names… Not that I have any.

  1. Juneta says:

    My names often have meanings and connections too. I have used placeholders, but I have to have something to start writing, but the name may change after I start writing.

    I have a character that insists on being called Pitch. I told him that is not really a name. He told me there was a reason his name being Pitch,but my muse is very closed mouth about it for awhile. Turns out the character has a psychic gift related to the name.

    I wanted the name Jack with an Irish last name connection. We, muse and I, finally settled on Jackie Pitch O’Shaugnessy. Muse and I also bump heads about casting for this character too for a bit.

    What fun!

  2. Eva says:

    I rarely use placeholder names. Like you, I find that characters want to keep them, and then I’m in trouble. To me, renaming a character rarely works! For what it’s worth, I absolutely love Herkimer too. *L*
    And see, I don’t want to give people names with a meaning – not, at least, the “cheating” names that tell you what that character is. Unless the name was given to somebody as a nickname, how could the parents have known? I dislike them, and it’s a minus for the book when reading anything but a children’s book (and no, I didn’t like it in Harry Potter either). Of course, it’s quite different with adult nicknames which can be sometimes cruel, and mistaken, but always carry a story with them.

    • Karen says:

      Considering that my parents gave me a name that means “ray of light” I guess they don’t know, or maybe, they just have a sense of humor.

  3. I love naming my characters. Sometimes they tell me what to call them, but if not, then I google names and find one that will fit their personality.

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  4. I struggle with names on occasion. I ended up getting a little notebook and jotting down names from people I meet, obituaries, and police logs. I’ve also learned to research names that I think I “created” because it has turned out that they were actual names from other cultures.

  5. Yep names are a drawback, I still haven’t finished some writing because I didn’t warm to the main character after letting a friend name her, silly eh

    • Karen says:

      I can absolutely see not warming to a character after somebody else named her–even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with the name, itself!

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