For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some research, plotting out certain base elements of the next book (Driving the Spike) and making damn sure the whole thing makes sense. In my notes, however, I’ve referred to the main characters as Brother A, Brother B and Brother C. Obviously that won’t work. Despite the fact that I’d already fleshed out enough of these three characters to know how old they are, what their likes/dislikes are and even how they view the world, I still hadn’t given them any names.
The naming of characters–for me, at least–can be difficult. Unless I’m killing off a former boss in one of my stories, coming up with names is like giving birth. (This assumes, of course, I know what giving birth is like.) And if I’m not totally satisfied with a character’s name, I will likely change it several times. Sure, I can just use a “REPLACE” function in my favorite word processor (and I’ve done that before), but changing the name of a character means I didn’t get to know them as well as I thought I had. For me, that’s a problem; I must know my characters so well, I become them.
Like many writers, I have tools: the obligatory baby name book, the Interwebz and its various search engines, the person sitting next to me, the dog. I have used all of these tools and yet still rarely come up with a name I am satisfied with on the first or second or even fifth try. I don’t know why that it, except, perhaps, because I am a an unhappy writer with a high threshold for satisfaction.
Last night, I was finally able to give the three Brothers in Driving the Spike some names. I wrote them down–first, middle, last–and felt pretty confident they would work.
It was no surprise, then, that they all came alive in that one moment, begging me to begin their story.
This is a short blog post, but in reality, I’m interested to know how other writers come up with names. Are they fresh from experience or are they carefully strung together because of theme or genre? What say you, writers of better fiction than I: how do you pick out names?