“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
This William Shakespeare's way of saying what we call someone, or something, doesn't really matter. But in fiction, I think it does. It matters greatly. The first way a reader really identifies a character, most times, is by name. Especially in romance fiction. Because the description of "tall, dark, handsome, and brooding" could apply to the male main character, his two best friends, and/or his dad, depending on what you read (if you know, you know. Ha!). This means choosing the right name for each character is important. But it can also be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have a large cast of characters.
For those reading this who have ever named a kid, welcome to my character-naming process.
I say this jokingly, but it's pretty accurate.
Do I stress over names? Absolutely. These characters are going to live on the pages and imaginations for many years, so I feel I need their names to be just right. The first and middle names have to work with the last name I've chosen for the family (last names are also very important, in my opinion). And the names have to fit the characters' personalities, where they live, and so on. So, yes. I definitely feel some degree of stress in naming a character. But I also have a method to my madness.
Ah, the notebooks. I have them in all sizes, shapes, and colors. And, invariably, each notebook holds a list somewhere in its pages of names that I want to have for future use. Are all the notebooks all together where these lists can be easily accessed? No. Do I have a master list of all of these names kept in a safe space? Also no. I started one once, but then I changed notebooks. I'm sure I still have it somewhere. I think.
Sometimes when I find several names I like, I can't decide which one to bestow on a character. Or I swap back and forth so many times I confuse myself (honestly, this isn't hard to do some days). When I'm genuinely conflicted, I take my names to my reader group, pop them into a poll, and let them make the choice for me. And, a lot of times, they'll suggest names in the comments. Which means I add them to the list (or make another. I do that a lot.).
Baby Name Websites
I've used these quite a bit, using them to add to those lists I mentioned. I like these sites because I can generally narrow down name options to regions of the US (and even the world) to keep them true to the book's setting.
Baby Name Books
These are generally my last resort. Mainly because, since they are in print, they tend to be outdated kind of quickly. I have come across a couple of names I liked using baby name books, but not many. I tend to reach for these books when I hit the edge of desperation in naming a character.
If you've read my books, which character names have been your favorites? And, if you have a name you love, drop those in the comments as well. I'm sure they'll end up on one list or another. ;)