February 12, 2011

Name that Character

How do you name your characters? I sometimes use names of childhood friends, or names of cats that I grew up with (most had human names). I've also chosen names of characters from books I love (Paul and Marion from Sons and Lovers). Nicknames work well too. When I started writing I often had unnamed narrators and wonder if it is easier for a reader to identify with a nameless character. As a fan of Carver and Cheever, I like their oft used first and last names or collective last name for a family or couple.

I've used websites to look for names that were culturally specific and the white pages in the phone book are fun. A writer friend pulled out a book of baby names from his bag that he had been using for his upcoming novel. These can always be found at Goodwill or the Sally Ann.

Sometimes an entire story can be built around a strong character name. Other times, it can take many rewrites before realizing the name I'd chosen doesn't work. I think my favourite character name that I've come up with thus far is Pinkerton Lewis.

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