Fun Friday Facts

This week’s question:

Where do you get the names you use in your stories? (From people you know? From movies or TV shows you watch?  From baby books?)

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4 Comments

  1. My main characters usually show up and introduce themselves, but when I have to come up with a name for a minor character it can be hard. I have a collection of old books and sometimes I go to those. At this time of year, though, I find a lot of characters just happen to have the names of NFL players.

    What about you? What’s your secret? 🙂

  2. Oh, that’s a neat question! 🙂

    It’s really all over the place for me. Telephone books and baby name websites are my two biggest sources. The popular baby names page on the US Social Security website is a fantastic resource for historic name data (I’m using it a lot on my current project, which is set in 1931). Back when I was in my teens, pre-internet, I got a copy of the Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, which I still have and use. The Internet is also super useful for giving characters names appropriate to their ethnic background. And for fantasy or sci-fi, of course, it’s mostly out of my head or else using one of several conlang word generators that I’ve found on the Internet.

    I tend to accumulate lists of names that struck my fancy, too — first or last — so I can go to those if I need a name in a hurry!

    I have a personal rule not to have too many characters with unusual, quirky, or trendy names in the same story, especially if they’re paired with each other. In my steampunk story from the upcoming Steamed Up anthology, one of the main characters is named Agamemnon … and the other is George. I wouldn’t have an Agamemnon paired with, say, a Lance or an Aloysius. Not that I’m saying other writers can’t, but personally, as a reader, I find it easy to believe in one unusual name but not a whole cast of them (well, unless there’s a really good world-building reason). To use an example from an urban fantasy novel I read just recently, I have no problem at all believing in a main character named Winter (there are totally people named Winter!), but it becomes completely ridiculous when the rest of the cast consists of people with names like Grey, Hunter, Truth, Cassilda, and Wycherly — all of them regular modern-day Americans, by the way, not elves or residents of a fantasy world. It blew my suspension of disbelief right out of the water!

    • That’s a good argument. I hadn’t given much thought to how many odd names are in a story, but I tend not to use odd names…at least not really odd. I have a Branson in one of the stories I’m working on, but the rest are all normal…and Branson isn’t THAT odd.

      I find my pet peeve in stories is when there are very similar names of very different characters. It doesn’t keep me from reading, but it can be confusing. Even in some of my favorite stories…like Dally and Darry from The Outsiders. I read one short story with a Mel, Mary, Melinda, and Max…which okay, isn’t really confusing, but got kind of annoying after a while…and they weren’t related. (All the J’s in the Dugger family would get annoying to me too, but at least there’s a reason for the alliteration there).

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