I’m writing the third book in my new Songbird Café Girls series at the moment and I’ve been thinking a lot about names.
Where do my characters’ names come from? The answer is – all over the place:
School visits – I ask the girls and boys to write their name in my large name notebook. I often use these names in my books if they suit particular characters.
Books, films and film credits – I often pause a DVD and run off to find a notebook if there is an interesting name in the credits.
I asked some other writers where they found their characters’ names – here are some of their answers:
I make lists… look up lists of names on the web, especially for historical stories (girls names of the 1930s for a character evacuated in 1939 – I couldn’t call her Kylie or Rihanna now, could I?). I made very long lists of Viking names for my novel Viking Boy – and yes, I’ve changed a character’s name halfway through. The name has to feel right and sometimes it doesn’t – and in the case of Viking Boy my hero was called Olaf till I read another novel with an Olaf in it. I then realised Olaf was a bit of an easy name to go for – and switched to Gunnar… much better!
Some names just come to me at the start, otherwise I will write out lists until I get the right one. For ‘Rat Runners’, everyone had street handles to keep their real identities private, so I chose words that fit their characters. For fantasy names, I’ll often take a real name or word and just tweak it for something that sounds real, but isn’t.
Cathy Hopkins suggested googling lists of popular names, looking at posh magazines for posh names, baby naming books. She said that the name has to ‘fit the character’.
I take great care picking my own characters’ names. In the Amy Green books one of my favourite characters is Clover Wildgust. Wildgust is a real name, I found it on a gravestone. Clover is ‘Wild’ by name, wild by nature. I could have gone for just Wilde, but I liked the gust bit as it’s different. And Clover – well she just is a Clover. Amy is Amy because it’s one of my favourite names – my daughter is Amy – and it’s also a name lots of girls can identify with. And Green – again is a common enough surname and it sounds friendly I think. And Amy is above all, a good friend, to Mills and Clover, and also to my readers too I hope.
If you like writing, think carefully about naming your characters and have fun with it. Names count.
Where do YOU get your characters’ names? I’d love to know.
Yours in books,