Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday on Naming Characters

Or: I’m Still a Bit High on Sudafed

(Note from present Saturday - this was written about a week ago, but I'm mostly not going to edit it for humour's sake.)

I had a major allergy issue today, sneezed about eight million times, couldn’t breathe and my eyes went wonky from the sinus pressure and reading was weird. So I took a Sudafed (Extra Strength Cold and Sinus – I don’t think it’s actually sold in the US because it has pseudoephedrine which has to be behind the counter there I’m pretty sure but let’s just say it’s reeeeeeally strong and reeeeeeally effective) ended up spending several hours reading magazines and watching Mythbusters because decongestants knock me on my BUTT.

(Also they make me chatty. ALSO my 8th grade Health teacher told us that if you take Sudafed, you can be disqualified from professional sports like the Olympic because it shows up on a drug test. I have no idea if this is true but I thought it was funny because my doctor had told me to take Sudafed once when I had an ear infection. It made me totally loopy back then, too. My mom found that hilarious.)

Anyways, I finished my revision of Spyder (waiting on feedback for that – patiently, of course) and did a round on Berserk (added six thousand words!! Still needs work but I think the plot working better) and I don’t need to order any more books for work because I get July and August off from the library so I ordered a bunch of research books.

Research books for writing are the BEST, for the record. I ordered a TON of Celtic mythology books, a couple magic books my friend Mires recommended, a bunch of circus books and a gymnastic memoir. The Celtic mythology and magic books are for a book that I’ve written but could do with a bit more world-building. The circus books and gymnastic memoir are for a book I haven’t written yet.

But I just might start it soon. I want to read my research books first (possibly outside with my feet in a kiddie pool with an umbrella over me because I burn like whoa). But… well, we’ll see.

Anyways, the point of this post was naming characters. (See? Sudafed makes me chatty.) There have been a couple of posts about this on this blog before (by Zoe and me and KT) but whatevs.

Sometimes, it takes me a really long time to name a main character. If they have the wrong name it can really throw me off. I’m half convinced my Genie book failed because her name didn’t suit her (also the plot kind of sucked). (Also most of the book kind of sucked.)

With this not-yet-a-book (which is why I am ONLY talking about names and absolutely nothing else #superstitious), there was another character who had a name first. Two, actually. A stage name, a stage persona, even, then a name that’s his real name, which let me in on the fact that his stage persona? Was not who he really was. Which made me really curious about who he really was. (Also, he had a nickname pretty earlier that the MC gives him which told me more about both of them.)

The MC was a bit hard to name. I knew pretty earlier that her name might be a bit unconventional. Then I was actually reading a Jezebel article about how Jessica Simpson named her daughter Maxwell Drew Johnson (which, how cute is that name?). The comments on the article, I think, mentioned that it was a pretty common thing for surnames to be given to both boys and girls, especially in the South. (If I’m wrong – it’s not my fault. Blame the internet.)

So I found a list of surnames that people use as first names and boom, Sawyer stuck to the character in my head. Sawyer Grace, to be exact. (And if you hate it, please don’t tell me!) Her brother has decided to be Rhett, from Garrett. They’re twins so I might actually make his middle name start with an S because… that’d be neat. I need to figure out their last name, though.

There’s another character I need to name and one of the tricks I do is I use the top 1000 list from Behind the Name from the year the character was born. I have this tic where I won’t set a book in the current year because… well, something might happen. Basically, I need the year finished before I set a book in it. Right now, all my books are set in 2010. This book will be 2011, so I’m counting back from that for character birth years.

I like the top 1000 list because everybody won’t be Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Jessica, Ashley and Sarah (top 3 names for boys and girls in 1993), but I feel it also lends some authenticity to the book. Like it’s reasonable for these people to be named what they are. (But I might be a bit batty. But it works for me!)

For surnames, I have a list of last names in a word document that I found somewhere internet that’s good for naming side characters who just need a quick name, but this website seems like it’d be really good for finding last names that fit well no matter what you’re looking for and I’ll probably use it.

There’s some advice out there about the heritage of names and such. I’ve said it myself, even. And while that’s true to some extent, I think especially if your characters are younger, it’s not necessarily true that if your grandparents are, say, German, you will have a German name. With baby naming books and the internet, I think a lot of people just choose names they like for their kids and a lot of people aren’t from just one place. So that would not be something to stress out about in my opinion.

But, on the other hand, that might help you. I have an Irish-mythology based book and a lot of the names are Irish in that. It’s also set in a predominately Irish city so that fits well and it makes it easier to name characters. Basically, your mileage will vary.

My last trick for naming characters – I bug KT. Seriously, she’s named… well, a lot of my characters XD Or inspired their names, at least. One character in my Irish book, she flat-out named, first and last name. (It was a deal between us. She got to name a character in the book I was writing if she finished revising HER book and let me read it. It was quite effective and she chose a great name.)

I’m not GREAT at naming characters. Last names especially. But these are the things I do to name characters and maybe this will help you guys!

What are your tips and tricks for naming characters? (Also, wow this is long. Sudafed, man. Now I’m going to sleep, I think. Or at least to lie very still for the rest of the night. I still haven’t named that one character, but I’ll tackle that tomorrow when I’m not so woozy.)

(Present Saturday here again - I've been revising and actually forgot about the character (Sudafed doesn't help my memory) but I still want to hear your tricks and tips! Leave them in the comments below.)

Peace and cookies,