I don’t know about you, but I spend way more time on baby naming sites now than I ever did when I was pregnant. Now, this could because the Internet was a baby itself the last time I had a bun in the oven, but you get what I mean, right? As an author, I spend A LOT of time choosing names for my characters, and it’s not easy, let me tell you! And, boy, have I messed it up a time or two…or three. But who’s counting?
In my second novel, DREAMER, I needed to name the ladies that made up the Irish Seer Council, so I headed to one of my favorite websites, Behind the Name, and picked out some really great Irish names, such as Caiohme, Finnoula, Maire, Aine, and Eithne. Super-fun, but nearly impossible to pronounce, at least for Americans.
Seriously?? What the hell was I thinking??? I think it was in the final, FINAL edits that I finally figured out I had, like, four different spellings of Caiohme sprinkled throughout the book!
It’s in that same novel that I introduced one of my favorite characters ever, Rémy Giles. Now, I know there are lots of shortcuts for putting those cute little accent marks in Word or Scrivener (which is what I use), but it’s still a P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass).
I often regretted my name choice, especially as he became a much more important character than I’d originally intended.
Lest you think my only character-naming foibles were birthed out of my love-hate relationship with exotic foreign names, let me tell you about my Brian disaster. In The Seeker Series, Ally’s mom has a boyfriend named Brian. Seems innocuous, huh? I mean, what could possibly difficult about such a normal name? Well, in the hands of an inept typist (me), it became Brain at least 60% of the time. And spellcheck never noticed! Argh!! I swore never to do THAT again! It worked pretty well until I decided to name my hero Gray in a recent short story. Gray is a sexy, 20-something with smoldering grey eyes. But have you guessed what I managed to do? Yep, it became Gary probably 80% of the time. Gary is a paunchy 50-something with watery blue eyes hidden behind reading glasses (apologies to all the hot Garys out there–you probably exist).
So, big deal, right? Why does this even matter, anyway? Who cares about a name? Well, I do. These characters become real people to me and I have conversations with them in my head. If I’m doing my job correctly, they become real people to my readers too. Nothing pulls a reader out of the story more than a typo that screws up a name. “Wait, who is this Gary person? I thought his name was Gray?” Yikes!
And don’t even get me started on the names I can NEVER use because that one kid I despised in elementary school had that name. Mine is Evan. He was a horrible bully and I can only use that name for a completely despicable character, like a cheating boyfriend.
Drop me a comment and tell me about your character-naming disasters! Readers, what do you love/hate about character names? #I’mCurious
2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? The Importance of Character Names”
I enjoy naming my character and have made a few changes before publication along the way. Enjoyed your article! 🙂
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! It’s a fun topic!