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19 Dec 2012

RTW - Naming Characters

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?
I take ages at this stage of developing a character.  I'm not the type to choose a name on its meaning.  I'd never choose a name for a hero or heroine because it means brave or heroic.  That's a bit too OTT for me.  But the name does have to suit the character and I'll spend ages deciding on the right one.  Let's use Hannah from Inside the Broom Closet.  Hannah suited her right from the start.  It felt like a gentle name for a gentle, shy character.  There's no way I could change it now for something like Megan or Charlotte.  They don't sound right.  Hannah's definitely her name. 
Sometimes it helps me to look at the character's parents.  I tend to create parents who have a tradition to choosing their children's names.  Darren's parents in Lapse wanted their boys' names to start with the same letter.   Darren fitted the character quite well so the brothers ended up being called Dean and Dylan.  In Beast Inside Luca and Caleb's parents decided to name their firstborn twins after their paternal and maternal granddads.  It also meant their mother was continuing her family's tradition of naming their children after biblical names in regards to Caleb. 
For the second part of the question I don't think I could name a main character after someone who I know very well because its hard for me to not see that character as the person they share a name with.  It's a bit too weird for me.  Minor characters sure but definitely not main characters.  However, I'm fine with using surnames for any character.  A lot of my surnames come from my work place.  It doesn't mean that I'm basing my characters on that person, it's just I'll come across a surname that will have a nice ring to the character's name. 
How do you feel about naming characters after people who are close to you? 


  1. It takes me forever to name characters too. That's an interesting idea about considering the character's parents. It makes a lot of sense seeing as the parents are a part of a character's back story. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I like that you think about the parents when naming your characters. There tends to be a sort of melding of the minds when you pick a name for your child, so it stands to reason book parents would do the same. I have a friend with six children. For every child she said she had to consider whether the name fit it with names of her other children.

  3. I do kind of think of what the parents were thinking but I do that more for supporting chracters like I mention in my RTW, which you can check out here:
    My RTW

  4. That's really cool that you think about the parents when choosing names for a character. I really like that.

    I feel the same way about naming characters after real people. Once I learn someone's name, I tend to associate it with that person unless it's a really common name.

  5. I'm glad you mentioned the fictional parents as well! I think about that when I'm naming characters because I know a few people who have crazy names foisted on them by their parents.

  6. It depends. Sometimes it takes me awhile to name a character; sometimes I find something that fits right away. My favorite resource is, which makes it really easy to search names based on things like linguistic origin - if I'm writing a fantasy, I like to have names that are somewhat similar, because that makes sense. I never name characters after real people, though. Like you said, it's just too weird, and it's really hard to picture your character.