I don’t follow a strict set of rules when I name my characters, except that I absolutely must have their name decided before I write them. And once it’s decided, it can’t be changed. It’s weird, but after I’ve picked out the perfect name, something clicks in my brain, and there’s no going back. It’s their name, I can’t change it! (Although there was one time where I was forced to change a character’s name because it was too similar to another character’s name and I still to this day refer to her by her original name… what a disaster!)
Usually, I create the character first, deciding on their physical traits (hair and eye color, etc) before settling on a name. If I’m writing a fantasy story, it’s a little easier to pick a name as I can usually make it up. For contemporary novels, like THE SIGHT SEER, I searched baby name webpages for both common and uncommon names. There was one character in THE SIGHT SEER that gave me trouble, though. I scoured webpages, asked my family for suggestions, but his name just wasn’t coming to me! Each day of writing took me closer and closer to his first appearance, and I began to panic when finally, I figured out what I wanted to call him. I find the whole thing ironic because this character is a total pain in the butt; it figures he would make me crazy over something like this! A few months later, I was stuck yet again on a character that would appear in the proposed sequel. I had two names in mind, but couldn’t make a choice. One night, I had a dream about him and another character; the second character (whose name I already knew) called the first character by one of the names I had picked out. I woke up and thought, “Ah, so that’s his name!” I owe that second character a big thank you for making that difficult decision for me!
Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll stumble across an amazing name and develop a character around it. It usually doesn’t work like this, but it’s great when it does. I also like to keep a notebook handy and write down a name that catches my eye so that in the future, when I’m stuck on a name, I can consult my list. This is helpful for naming secondary characters–I’ll admit it, I spend a lot more time naming main characters than I do on the ones who only get a few lines here or there. That’s why my main characters will have amazing (well, I think they’re amazing!) names while the secondary characters end up with common names. I’m not going to waste a great name on just anyone!
For all the writers out there, how do you go about naming your characters?