Thursday, September 4, 2014

What's In A Name by Tara Randel



Ask any author how they pick character names and you’ll get many different answers. It depends on the mood of the book. The demeanor of the character. Time period. Location. The list goes on, but you get the point. Picking the right name is important, no matter how you come up with it.

For me, the name comes to me as I’m fleshing out my hero and heroine. A name usually pops into my head and I can see the connection. Not a very scientific means to coming up with a name, but it works for me. I know authors who will study the meaning behind the name they chose. Or others who use names of family or friends. 



I have The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I have to admit, I enjoy flipping through it for pleasure more than as a resource I can turn to at the beginning of each book. Names from different cultures are interesting to me.  Only once did I ever use the book to come up with specific names for characters in a book I haven’t gotten around to writing yet, but I keep it beside my computer just in case.

So which names are popular today? Here’s a few. For the girls; Olivia, Emma, Sophia, Mia and Isabella. For boys; Liam, Noah,  Asher, Finn, and Oliver.

How about at the turn of the century? Mary, Helen, Anna, Margaret and Ruth. John, William, James, George and Charles.

 

Quite a difference. The year I was born, popular girl names were Mary, Linda, Susan, or Karen. Definitely not Tara, but what can I say, my mother and grandmother loved Gone With the Wind!

For my July release, Magnolia Bride, I came up with the heroine's name from my job in a dentist office. It clicked with me and I knew I'd use it in a book one day.

So readers, how do you connect to the name of certain characters? Do you have a favorite name from a well-loved book? Have you named a child after a favorite literary character?

And, if you were going to write a book, which name would you use? I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

26 comments:

  1. Character names are very important to me, and I keep a pad by my chair so I can write it down whenever one comes up on the TV. Some recent ones - Caitlin and Celia.

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    1. I like to watch the screen credits at the end of a TV show or movie. There are sometimes really interesting ones that lend themselves to a hero or heroine.

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  2. I was just thinking, Tara, that your name could have been Scarlet hehehe. Now that's a name you don't hear very often. I've taught quite a few Taras, but that was back in the 90s. In my classroom now I have Sarah, Brittney, Brianna.. those are the girls. Boys, I have Trevor, Chris, and Luke.
    Right now I'm writing a book with Yolanda and Adam as H and H. It's the second time I've used Adam. First time for Yolanda. btw, Yolanda was a college friend of mine.

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    1. The choices for names are so incredible these days. So much fun.

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    2. Pam, I love Yolanda, but you know someone's going to call her Yo Yo.

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    3. LOL. I never thought of YoYo, and now I'll never un-think it! My Chris is 44, Pam--I must have been ahead of my time!

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    4. Ha, too late. This book is fourth in a series. No one would dare call her Yoyou LOL.

      Elizabeth is still a popular name, somewhat (Liz). I've never taught a Muriel. And there are very few Pamelas (and if I meet one, she's my age.)

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  3. I love names. I have about 6 baby name books. I like the ones that give ethnic origin and also meaning of the name. For me a name has to feel right for the character. I can't think of any real favorite names, but I definitely have some I don't like. Probably because they were attached to someone that was a stinker. Ha Ha. Most people don't like their own name. I used to think we shouldn't name a child until they were old enough to choose for themselves. But I can now see that wouldn't work.

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    1. My mom's first choice for my name was so bad my father won't let her use it. LOL. I still thank him to this day.

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    2. I have a lot of baby name books too, Roz. My favorite is one that lists names under categories such as Strong or Unusual, Ultra Feminine or Cross-Gender, even Think Twice names. But I tend to "get" the names for my main characters without consulting the books.

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  4. Generally, the character names do pop into my head; however, I also enjoy reaching out to readers for suggestions and have had great success with this approach!

    Marcie R., if you are reading this, I will e-mail you also, but I have used both the character name and the ranch name you suggested!

    Happy reading!

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  5. Did anyone have problems naming their child? I have a friend who announced their baby's name and then a week later changed it.

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    1. Fortunately, mine came already named. But I did have a friend who, when pregnant with her sixth, said, "She'd better arrive with a name because I'm out of ideas!"

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    2. Yes! My first son went home from the hospital with the name "Baby Boy" because we couldn't agree on a name. Not that we didn't have months to decide. We did come up with one, finally, a week later.

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  6. Tara, I love that you were named after Gone With The Wind! I try not to use names of people I know. I often change a character's name after I start writing them because I don't think their actions 'match' their name. I loved your heroine's name "Nealy" from Magnolia Bride. Such a great book, too!

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    1. I've also changed a name when it didn't fit the character. Writer's prerogative. Thanks!

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  7. Good morning, Tara! Your name is wonderful when you consider how dearly Scarlet's father loved the land. I have a friend whose mother named her Taran from a piece of Science Fiction where the heroine was from Earth, and everyone else was from other planets. I love names, too, and probably have as many baby names books as Roz has. I spend a couple of hours at the beginning of every book trying to find just the right name - usually not for significance to the story but because I like the way it sounds. I once got as far as chapter four in a book and had to rename the heroine because 'Betsy' was just wrong for her. I remember a period in the late nineties, I think, where everyone's characters had outrageous names and that got pretty silly. I'm working with Ben and Corie, right now. (Corie for Corazon.)

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    1. Love Corazon. Unusual but not outrageous.

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    2. I'm changing a secondary character's name right now in Chapter 8. But I once told a friend my then-new heroine's name and she hated it. Too bad, because by then she was who she was and I thought the name suited her perfectly.

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    3. My girlfriend's granddaughter is Corazon!

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  8. My real name problem is that I'll get stuck on starting-with letters. I know you're not supposed to do that because it's confusing to readers, but it happens almost every time. The WIP has both an Arlie and an Angie, and no amount of trying on my part got either name changed.

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  9. I know what you mean. When that happens I just go along with the names and see what happens.

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  10. Lately I'm reading books that have the same names for main characters. I find myself thinking "oh no, not another --". I like somewhat unique names in books. Not too exotic, but not overly common. I can more easily remember them that way for some reason. I was thinking of naming my daughter Taryn when she was born, but when I saw her that name didn't suit her. She looked like a Stephanie, so that's what I named her. My friend had a baby a few months ago and named her Scarlett after Vivien Leigh's character. She looks like a Scarlet too.

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  11. Naming my characters is one of the hardest things I do. I usually go to the Social Security baby names site, the phone book, just about anything I can find until a name clicks with a heroine or hero. Lately I've used Olivia shortened to Livy, Robyn, Taylor, Alex, Nick, Ben to name a few.

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