Monday, November 12, 2012

Naming characters: When Jericho met Ham

I am naming lots of new characters at the moment. This is not as easy as you might think. Like naming lots of new children, only some of them are 40 and grizzled, some of them are nobility, some of them are not, some of them are... you get the idea.

When we named Mr8 we had a boys' name all set - and argued for nine months about the girls' name. When it came to Mr5, we had the girls' name ready to go - and came up with a boys' name on the way to the hospital.

My technique with characters has always been to go with my first instinct. If I have no instinct, I simply name that character Fred until I think of something later. This allows me to continue on with the flow of the story without getting stuck. Names can be a real sticking point.

Unfortunately, with this particular project, I have so many characters that if I named all the un-named ones Fred, I'd have bits of text that went like this:

"Why did you do that?" asked Fred.
"I don't know," said Fred.
"It's not very smart," said Fred.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," said Fred.

You see my problem. The universal find/replace when I later decide that one Fred is called Dominic and the other is called Horatio will simply not work.

So I'm trying to do it as I go this time. Which is why I currently have a character called Jericho and another called Ham.

I'm thinking that I am going to have a lot of work to do in the second draft.

How did you name your kids? Did you always know? Did you argue? Or did you simply wait until you saw them?

Oh, and what's your Dad's name? I need a good Dad's name.

[image courtesy of Mr8]


  1. My Dad's name is Denis (pronounced the French way - Denise without the e!)

    And thank goodness we find out the sex of this baby on Friday. I have two names if it is a girl but no names if it is a boy. If I am going to need a boy name it's good to know I will 20 weeks to come up with one!

  2. My eldest daughter was unamed for five days while we argued about it - I wanted Danica husband wanted Alicia - eventually we combined the two to create Daneesha. So she became Daneesha Maree. Second daughter - after the pregnancy from hell husband had no fight in him and would have agreed to anything - so I fought with myself. I really wanted Tea (with that funny symbol over the e - like Tea Leonie) but thought that would just create hell for the child - then I wanted Tatiana but also decided that sounded too over-the-top so went with Tiana. With middle name Elizabeth.

    My father's name was Jim - as in James William. If I had of had boys they would have been Cody Campbell and Mitchell James. (Feel free to steal Kelly - at 45 I'm probably not going to need 'em).

    1. Jim is an excellent Dad's name. I might replace Fred with Jim.

    2. Ooh I do like Cody (I like names that can't be shortened easily to something else!)

  3. I always love your writing posts Alison. And my Dad's name is Frank. Classic dad name!

  4. Before we started going out together my future husband and I were swimming in the sea off the Solomon Islands and I was trying to put him off the idea of going out with me. So I told him my future kids names (which I thought was guaranteed to get him to run away screaming). He looked at me and grinned and said "What a coincidence. Those are my future kids' names too!"
    And so it was... although I later wanted to change my mind he held me to them! Of course I only had two names picked out and we've had those two kids... so if we go for a third it might be more problematic!
    My dad's name is Bill.
    (I'm also in the middle of working out characters... my protagonist has gone from Marjory, to Bridie to Jenny in the space of three chapters. I'll work it out soon... I hope ... Good luck with your characters names! )

  5. I have a similar problem with naming characters - sometimes I wonder how my kids got their names! I used to write from first person with no one ever calling my main character by his/her name...

    My Dad is Richard if that's any help :)

    1. Richard is more Kingly I think. Wouldn't work for the Dad in my story, but am sure it's great for your Dad!

  6. My dad's name is David. The male MC in my WIP is also called David. I don't know what this says about me.

    When I was pregnant with Georgia we had called her Audrey. We were totally set on it, until I was about 36 weeks and had an unexpected name crisis and changed it. She is definitely not an Audrey.

    My ex and I argued for months over Lily's name. Then once he'd agreed to the name, we had a follow up argument because he wanted to spell it with two Ls. Probably the beginning of the end for us.

    1. LOL. Yep, Lilly would have been a deal breaker for me too...

  7. My dad was called John - definitely a good 'dad name'.
    I decided on names really early in both my pregnancies and then changed my mind once I saw them. Both times I was convinced I was having boys and ended up with two girls, Grace and Cerys.
    I'm having difficulty naming my characters too - I'm wondering if I can get away with leaving them nameless.

    1. Just call them all Fred Catherine - it works a treat!

  8. We could not agree on a name for our girl. Boys? Heaps! If we had ten we'd be able to name them all with plenty left over. But we used the only two girl names we liked on our daughter. If this next one is another girl, she'll be anonymous. Or we'll just flip the names of our eldest!
    My dad's name was Leigh.

  9. My husband and I only have boys, which is just as well; we couldn't agree on ANY girls names at all. In my WIP I've changed the name of the male protagonist twice already, am now trying to stick with it. This 'dilemma' keeps distracting me from writing more actual STORY.

    Oh and my dad's name is Tom and my father in law is Julian.

  10. I had all my kids' names picked well in advance, but refused to tell anyone after the outrage over one name (older son -- Gage -- had lots of poor reactions to it) so we told everyone it was going to be Prudence Lulubelle, with all subsequent pregnancies. Shut them ALL up!

    My dads' name is Gary. Or 'Your Father' of you're talking to my mum.

  11. I had lots of 'rules' for naming my kids - not the same initial as our surname or each other, it had to have a meaning I liked, middle names are all family names etc.

    My Dad's name is Graham.

  12. We are lucky we had girls as we could never decide/agree on a boy's name!

    As for my characters I find I can get stuck on names, they need to a perfect fit. For my current NaNo draft one of the characters name I was sure of from the start, the others took a while. Now I feel like I know them personally - which I guess is a good thing.

    Oh and my Dad goes by his second name John, his first name is Walter!

  13. There was a pause when the twins were born. No names. Naming one kid is hard but naming two at the same time is worse. Especially when you think that those names are going to be said together over and over. They have to work. You know.

    Well, my Dad's name is Dennis. But you know that :-)

  14. And, spookily, the Geege's Dad's name is John Walter. Opposite to Lipgloss Mumma's Dad.

  15. oh i love the name game! with our son, i knew it had to be short (one syllable!) and for our daughter I wanted a name that she would suit a small child as well as an adult...there are so many cutsy names that sound ridiculous once you hit 30!

    ps - My dad's name is Andrew.

    Good luck on your name crusade!

  16. In case you need any more suggestions, my dad's name is Barry, which I think is a total dad name.

    Naming characters is OK for me (though I will keep Fred in reserve for the unnameables now) but we did have some trouble choosing Mr2's name - mostly because as a recent immigrant from Germany my husband didn't have quite the same impression of some names as I did - for a while there he was very sure we should name our son Brian, which of course is a perfectly respectable name but not for a baby born in 2010. Or any child born to me, ever. He couldn't understand how much of a dad name it was.

  17. Biological dad = Barry (!) Stepdad = Steve
    I HATED my name and hope the boys don't hate theirs! We have a long surname so went with simple options. Naming is hard! Good luck with finding names...

  18. Ha! Choosing names is fun! Loved choosing for both my girls! Let me know if you need a hand :) my dad's name is Angelo! xx

  19. In Dec of 2006, Hubby & I were out to dinner and we had the 'let's start trying for a baby' talk. As we sat their excitedly talking about the prospect of being parents, we came up with 2 names. We wrote them on the back of a coaster with the date and I put it in my purse. That coaster is still in there!! 7 years on...and we have two kids. And we stuck with the two names we wrote on that coaster that night: Ella Louise and Ryder Nicholas.

    Oh, and my Dad's name is Martin. And my father in law is Tony {short for Anthony}.

    Good luck with the naming. I find that bit hard too!


  20. One of your Fred's may have to become a Bob.
    My dad's name is Jerry, step-dad was Jim, Grandpa's were Joe and Bernhard.
    I have cousins named Bernie and Kai, other male (extended) family members are Ken, Lachlan, Ray, Barry, Dennis, Wayne, Simon, Luke, David, Jeremy, Stuart, Keith, Cameron, Matthew, James, Sam, Nicholas, Jacob, Michael, Paul, Richard.
    Have fun choosing.
    We chose my children's names by me putting forth a few firm favourites and my husband making the final choice. Because I simply couldn't decide.

  21. My dad is Paul. Its always been such an odd name. Paul. It even looks funny when I look at it. My sister married a Paul too. I didnt.
    My Poppy was born just before remembrance name and just after Poppies tend to bloom. She is also a little poppy with a mess of curls and a big smile. My boy Henry looked like a little old man when he was born, therefore he got a little old mans name.

  22. We named our first daughter Angellia Brooke, like the Richard Marx song. It was only after a few days of people visiting that everyone said how sweet that I named her after my monster in law (Oh I mean mother, Ok maybe no I don't), Angela. [insert slap to forhead hear] The second daughter is Gabriella Jasmeen, this time intentionally named after MY FATHER Gabriel, but she would have been Bjorn Eric cause she was supposed to be a boy. We had the names set from when we found out we were pregnant with Gabs but Angellia only had a girl's name because we JUST KNEW she was a girl. I only officially found out she was a girl 4 days before she was born. As a side note I love coming up with names! I build my characters around the name usually since a Mildred (oldish prude) would look very differnt to a Sophia (sexy french lady) or even an Isabella ... OK I'm going now cause I can go on with names FOREVER! Good luck! Hope Fred, Fred and Fred find themselves sooner rather than later!

  23. Names are so tricky because you have to love them forever, both in your children and your characters.
    When I was pregnant, I just knew I was having a boy so was calling the bub Jed. Then we found out she was a girl and Isabella was a name that we both loved, so went with it. Her middle name is Jeeyun, a nod to my husband's Chinese heritage, it means much happiness.
    My dad was Alan, stepdad Alan and FIL Ken.
    I hope all the Freds choose their names soon x

  24. My Dad is Colin James and my fa in law is Ronald Stuart. Grandfathers on my side were David James (but always known as Son or Sonny bless him x) and Wally (Walter Henry), going back further there is a Herbert Charles, and a Gustav (who my little 5 year old Gus is kind of named after but I really just liked the name GUS not Angus.....first thing someone said when visited in hospital "oh Gus Gus thats the fat mouse in Cinderella" well yes it is thanks! And then we got a lot of 'thats a dogs name' but I dont care - love it Gus Alexander. and we also have an Ella Grace (which got VERY popular around the year she was born..poor kid ended up with 3 Ellas out of the 11 girls she went to kindy with).Good luck with renaming all your Freds

  25. There are so many crazy names out there now. Some people just don't give enough thought to what their children will have to put up with at school. Personally I loathe silly made-up names, there are so many beautiful names already. Some colleagues were embarassed to tell people about their new grandson because his names were, wait for it, Caspar Maximus. Poor kid, still at least he can call himself Max when he's older. But if you're going to choose a weird name, choose a more traditional one as well, so he/she will have an alternative in the future.

  26. I was on my own when I had my son so I got sole naming rights. He is Baydn Geoffrey. Baydn being a variation on Baden and Geoffrey being my Dad's name. My daughter is Ruby because that was the only name my husband and I could agree on. Her middle name is Cathren because I liked the way it sounded with Ruby and our last name. I spelt it that way because it is exactly how it is said, same with Baydn (who we call Bay more often than not). I didn't have a girls name chosen for my son and we didn't have a boys name for our daughter. Just as well they came out the sex they were predicted to be!

    I always hated my birth name so I go by Bri. My husband's name is Jason but we (and all his family) call him Jack which is a nickname his grandfather gave him after the race driver Sir Jack Brabham.

    I love naming the characters in my stories. You always know when you have picked just the right name.

    Oh, biological father's name is Robert. Dad's name is Geoffrey (Geoff).

  27. My Dad's name is Glenn. When I was pregnant with my firstborn I was reading the newspaper three weeks before he was born and read the word 'river' and thought wouldn't that make a beautiful name? And it is. Our second born, his name just popped into my husbands head about a week before babe was born, his name is Sol. Speaking of names three friends have given birth in the past month and I just love all three of the names chosen for these babes: a boy named Dusty, a girl named Clover, and another girl babe, named Izzy. I do also like the name Pearl. Good luck!

  28. My Dad's name is Greg.
    We had Oliver for a boy and then out popped a girl so she become Olivia!
    With this bubs, we have some girls and some boys names on a list and will just wait until he/she is born.

  29. My Dad's name is Errol. True Story. You should use it because I can't. My whole family of eleventy hundred people would freak if I had a character named Errol.

    BTW, Guess what my mum's name is?

    True Story.

  30. My Dad's name was Tim. My brothers names - Will, Charlie and Tom. Grandfathers names - Dennis, Robert and Len. I love the name Robert. I have SO many males names I love - Roger and Jonathan are also up there for me for characters...xx


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