The naming game…


Last week my writing hit a wall!  That wall was made of colorful Post-its, pinned to the cork board above my writing desk.   I had come to the point in the story where I could no longer get by with general, generic names–those given out in the initial pursuit of practicality and momentum.

As I introduced my leading character’s sidekick, this became painfully obvious.   The words were stifled and lacking, because an element of liveliness was missing.  My character was ready to live and breathe–yet could not!  Hence, he needed to be named, like all things that are created.  (Actually, he still needs to be named.)

From this fantasy story’s earliest conception, he has been called simply: “Red man”.   (Rest assured that this is not an ethnic reference, more of a literal observation.)  Similarly, other characters had/have temporary pet names, take Yoda-like man for example(short, wise and speaks his mind).  So, I pulled out the baby-naming books and my overflowing “name” file, which holds scraps of papers scribbled with various names and words.  Those names are found(stolen) from books, magazines, movies, the shoe boxes at Kohl’s, name tags of workers and even the yearly unclaimed money/property register.  Names are truly everywhere–you just have to be open to receiving them.  I do, however draw the line at searching the obituaries!

Again, I’m at a standstill.  I need the name.  A solid and strong name, perhaps a name from long ago that can be resurrected and recycled.

I’d love to hear from other writers!  What is your character-naming process like?  I’m especially curious as to the naming process for fantasy and/or other uncommon world genres.


5 thoughts on “The naming game…

  1. I usually have to have a name before I get too far, otherwise, they take on the temporary name I’ve given them and I can’t imagine anything else. I usually search names on the web based on ethnicity, time period, name meanings etc. Whatever feels right, I go with. As far as solid and traditional, you could search popular names of the 1920s–a lot of those names are coming back into style, like Henry, George, Alexander, Edward…..

  2. I often name characters after everyday objects I see around me. For instance, if you are standing in your kitchen, take a look at the names on the boxes around you. Even if ‘Kelloggs’ isn’t an ideal name, it could be a nickname or a code-name in another work. As many products are names after their inventor, they’re real and usable. A novella character was names Emerson Brother. Emerson was a name on a box and Brother was a way to have many jokes made about the character (you can imagine the mileage…) When you are reading blogs, pay attention to the commenter’s names – and mix them up a bit.
    If that doesn’t inspire, watch newsreaders (Polly Toynbee is a BBC newsreader and I adopted her name for myself) and TV celebs.
    If that fails, there’s always the phone book. 🙂
    Hope this helps.

    • Thanks, Andrew! I’ve actually “found” names in the manor you’ve described. I remember riding to the beach with my family and writing, looked out the window and saw a Honeywell factory, and Ta-da…Jessica Honeywell was invented. She was later deleted from the story, but I still love the name. 😉

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