Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Name Game


Coming up with names for characters and places can be hard work! It's also one of the most rewarding things I've found about writing fiction. Essentially, you are taking a character from your imagination who is probably a part of you subconsciously, or based on some characteristics of someone you know, etc., and you are giving her life on the page. You add a first and last name and poof! A living person!

I love generating names. Whenever I'm stuck, I will look up some names and write them down as a long list in my notebook. This is great practice to stretch the creative part of your brain. Look through a book of names - I have one that's been kicking around my house from before I was born - and take a peek at what each name means and where it originates from. These pieces of information can be very valuable as you decide what names to give your characters.

JK Rowling is notorious for giving her characters names with subtle meanings. Those little meanings can give insight into your character's personality and why they act they way they do.

I can't begin to discuss the number of people I've met who act a certain way because of their names. It's a little bit like stereotyping. Not 100% accurate, or true, but very common in my experience. Ever known someone named Josh who liked to goof off? That makes sense because "josh" means to joke and tease. See where I'm going with this? When I worked on Ice Cold Gold as an Assistant Editor (Animal Planet), I was tasked with rounding up any moments where certain characters would say something hilarious, or make bizarre facial expressions. More often than not, I would be pulling crazy things that Josh Feldman would say because he was one of the funniest guys on the Greenland team!

If you're stuck creatively, and you want to jump-start your imagination, make a list of names. You can get them from a book of names, Google Maps, even Wikipedia. Try making up a character to go with a name. Who are they? What do they say to you based on just the name alone? You might be surprised with what you find!