Friday, June 12, 2009

The Friday Five

This fellow was strutting around Historic Forestville, and I thought he was kinda cute.
Today's Friday Five:
Five things I take into consideration when naming characters.
1. Historical context. I set the time period of the novel, then determine the age of the character. If possible, I try to find newspaper articles from that era and choose a name. If in doubt, a Bible name always works.
2. Social strata of the character. The names of Gilded Age socialites differed greatly from the names of their maids. Octavia, Consuelo, Imogen, Olympia...the more elaborate, the better for the upper crust.
3. Ethnicity. Is your family of Scandinavian descent? Scots? British? Korean? Egyptian? It makes a difference.
4. Personality of the character. Some names just inspire certain connotations for me. I couldn't name a character Jerry, for example, because I once knew a Jerry in elementary school and he was mean to me. (Maybe I could name a villain Jerry, I guess, but never a hero.) And I'd never name a strong, fiesty, adventurous character Pansy or Patsy. Unless I wanted to incorporate her dislike of her name into her character.
5. The supporting cast's names. I try not to have names that have the same starting letter, names that rhyme with any other names, or even names that have the same cadence. Sometimes these are easy to do, and other times I'm sure things slip through. But I try.
How about you? How do you name characters? Do they arrive with names already, or do you have to hunt?


  1. Interesting how much thought you put into naming your characters. I can see how choosing a popular modern name could yank a reader right out of your historical setting. Guess you can't go wrong with Bible names.

  2. What a fun post! I LOVE names. I have no clue where I get them for my characters. They sort of just pop into my head. I have a Jerry character in As High as the Heavens. :) He's a nice guy though... made quite a few mistakes, but a nice guy. :)

  3. I peg their nationality first, then I think about names that would fit into their age. For instance, how many twenty-year old Sally's are there? Not very many. But how many sixty-year old Sally's? Lots and lots!

    Thanks for another fun post!

  4. I always look forward to your Friday Five. This is interesting to me. Though I doubt I'd ever attempt historical fiction, it always fascinates me how people who write this genre approach the process of doing so. Cool!

  5. That's a lot of things to consider just to come up with the names. And you do a good job, they always fit the person and the times.

  6. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. I find it hard to switch around all of the Johns and Marys and Richards and Elizabeths!! (Especially since about 8 out of 10 boys were named John, it seemed!)But I agree, it gets confusing to have names that start with the same letter.