Naming Characters From My Running List Of 'Power-House-Names'...
Developing and naming characters is a fun and important part of the writing process. Today I'll explore my varied approach to crafting characters and then harnessing the essence of that character in a name....er...or harnessing the essence in a name to create characters. Hmmm...the old, 'which came first, the chicken or the egg' question...
There is such power in a name. Cliches aside, it's true. Would you identify with a valiant hero and alpha male named Chauncey? Not bloody-likely. Ha! Would you easily tolerate a kick-a** heroine who vanquishes evil-doers called Lynn? We associate names with certain characteristics - wrongly at times - but nonetheless, we do. Consider this. Have you ever known a person who ruined a name for you? This is common with my teacher friends. Or met someone with an odd - or 'unattractive' name that after getting to know them became more lovely? I, as a young child, avowed that I would name my daughter Prudence because I loved the show Nanny and The Professor...hmm...or was it The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?? Ahhh. Time steals all things.
In my first book, Claiming The Prize, I researched plenty of Slovakian names, my hero hailing from that region. I've compiled a lengthy list of Eastern-European names, which rests safely beside 'Writing-Nook' in my aptly, if boringly, titled notebook - 'Character Names'. Handy references make life much simpler! The list has grown, and I have dividers separating names by ethnicity as well as by meaning and emotion invoked. I must confess to having post it notes slapped on the inside cover and random pages - those quick jot-downs I haven't had the time nor the inclination to categorize. Ha! If the glue ever breaks down on those sticky notes, it will be messier than the aftermath of a NYC ticker-tape parade in here. *frowns at the messy thought* In that first book, I named secondary characters as I wrote them. This is interesting, because the name served to shape the character's personality.
For instance, Carson Khaler developed as a smoking gun and playboy. The name is catchy, it sounded like a rough-and-tumble, pretty-boy, arrogant-and-full-of-himself fighter.
Mac, short for Danny MacGovern, was a promoter - and his persona had to fit his name. Anyone familiar with the business of professional fighting will 'feel' the connection of the character's 'good-old-boy' tag with the role he fulfilled in the story.
The team of trainers within First Strike, my fictional gym grew into the names I assigned. And Guy Antolini's team name and slogan - Team Anto-Engage: Engage the Globe, were long contemplated tags.
Yves Friarsson - the Friar - was a ju-jitsu/martial arts coach. A soft spoken, serious minded, and well respected man blossomed out of his unique name.
Allen Eisenhower - Ike - fit the bill of hard-core wrestling coach and ground game trainer. I've known trainers - and Ike is the perfect tag!
St. Clair Davis - Saint - filled the shoes of tough-as-nails-yet-big-old-teddy-bear-underneath-boxing-coach.
(Incidentally, I had the good fortune of knowing someone with the name Saint in my school years, and have always thought it a fabulous name, loving it so much as to modify it into a surname (St. Johns) for a knight in my second book, Her Dark Baron.) Readers concur; they're in love with the name, too! I'd like to believe it's also because St. was such a lovable character - a beautiful, tenderhearted and passionate-about-life guy who was a bit too in love with love. That tortured guy - the man with a heart made for love but as of yet denied his heart's desire....always a hit. :}
Drago Zadrovec, the up and coming MMA fighter in the novel, needed a strong name, indeed, to re-enforce the concept of inner strength needed to succeed in this brutal sport. He was named before the writing...
But names convey much more than strength.
Grace is a soft, feminine name, fitting for my cautious, unworldly heroine with a sweet disposition. It also houses extra potential when considering it's variances. Grace is a single syllable - it's still strong underneath its gentle meaning. This worked well, contrasting her soft sweetness against the backdrop of her existence - training and instructing in a mixed-martial-arts gym.
Gracie reveals her anew from the perspective of those who hold great affection for her - both as a daughter and as a lover.
'Little-G' introduces the well-loved daughter of the gym's owner amongst the men she grew up around - men who exist in a harsh profession yet also have a tender side.
In my second book, Her Dark Baron, I wrote a story outline before I named characters. This proved an interesting - and helpful - new step. Naming my characters was easier - I was more acquainted with their story, and therefore, more in touch with names that would portray them as I wanted them to be understood.
When I sat down to outline The Third Fate's storyline, I went a step beyond, completing extensive character profile packets on each main character. When I sifted through my extensive list of Scottish/Celtic names, I snapped up my picks with confident ease. Phew!
How do you go about naming characters? Do you put as much emphasis on this process as I do - or does a name grab you and you run with it? Ever encountered a character with an ill-fitting name? Or one that has a name that suggested he/she is something other than what you discovered?
Crafting characters - even a basic development - will aid you in selecting a name that matches the overall mood of your character. In my newest historical WIP, I have chosen a name that, for me, reflects a rigid and stiff, no nonsense woman, which will thereby enhance the gradual awakening she will undergo as she becomes comfortable with herself. Her husband's eventual play on her name will embody the inner-metamorphosis in a tangible, 3-D - if you will- way. Translating this idea from concept to written word is a challenge I anticipate with relish!