Friday, November 21, 2014

Character Names: Guest Post by Author Patricia Green

What's in a name?
Photo by aldin
Did you ever wonder how a writer comes up with character names? I think everyone has a favorite name—the name they should have given their child. If only their last name wasn't Schmidlapp, Giovanni would have been such a nice choice. Sometimes writers use these favorite names for their characters. They might build the entire character around the name, in fact. 
I tend to build my characters and then decide what name fits. Not always, but I have that tendency. I think of whether that character would have a nickname, and how that would sound. Would it be one syllable or two? And if I've already built another character, how would they go together as a couple, or as villain and heroine? I virtually never have two names beginning with the same alphabet letter. I find that confusing to read, and I have read more than once that I'm not alone with that. Having Catherine and Camelia can make a person have to go back and reread to figure out who is doing what. Not a good dynamic between author and reader.

When I come up with last names, I think of ethnicities. Do I want my heroine to be an Italian-American? Would she be of Scots heritage? And how does that contrast or compliment my hero's ethnicity? I'm also really careful about the names of villains. I don't want them all to be of one heritage, or I start to look like I'm picking on one group or culture. When I wrote Eddie, My Love, I wanted to come up with a tech guy and I was aware that there are a lot of East Indian technical gurus in the US, so I gave my villain (a very clever tech guy) an Indian name. I wouldn't make all my villains Indian, of course, but for the purposes of realism in this story, it worked out very well. In my Journey Family series, because the action takes place in the western and southern parts of Texas, I included some Hispanic names. I tried to stay true to the regions by including them. That kind of inclusion helps round out a story, makes it more realistic.

Names are important and can really start off the relationship between reader and writer well or badly.

So what's your reaction to character names? Are you more likely to pick up a book with one of your favorite names among the leading characters?

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