A Name Is a Name Is a Name

How do you come up with your character names? Do you pick them out of a baby book? Use the name of a friend, relative or a name you heard in passing? Or do you choose a name that may reflect that character’s culture such as Native American, Irish, Italian, etc.?

I had a name I wanted to use in one of my stories, but there were only 3 letters in his name. It just so happened that my heroine used a shortened version of her name and it was also 3 letters. I decided (okay, a critique partner pointed it out to me) that I needed to change one of them. I changed the hero’s name.

In real life, like fiction, parents have the same dilemma of naming their babies. A lot use a version of their own names or a distant relative. In my mom’s case, as first born, she was named after her father, Earl. BUT, she was born the same year that Charles Lindberg flew across the Atlantic and my grandmother wanted to incorporate his name into moms. She became Lindy Earlene, but went by Earlene. And really, Earlene fit her personality a lot better than Lindy.

In succession, I became Linda.

So tell me, where did you get your name? Does it have significance in your family or culture? Do you use the same techniques with your characters? Or do you look for an obscure name that hasn’t been overused? Since trying to name my characters is hard for me, I can use all the help I can get. 😉

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9 thoughts on “A Name Is a Name Is a Name

  1. My name, Jacqueline, was my father’s choice. He’s an airplane nut and he named me for Jacqueline Cochran who was the first woman to test fly jet aircraft. But my mom was cool with it. She thought he was going to name me “Beechcraft”.

    • LOL, Jackie! I wonder what you’d be calling yourself if he HAD named you that? Or if your mom would’ve smacked some sense into him first.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Hey, your mom knew a good name when she heard it. My mom named my sister Laverne because she liked it. Sis hates it so I’m smart enough to never call her that. Well, not anymore that is. 😉

  2. I’m named after a pair of basket ball shoes. When Mom and DAd were in school, Mom wrote her name (Sue) and Dad’s (Carol) on her shoes. She went off and left them while she talked to my daddy (they liked each other a long time before they got married). A boy picked up the shoes and carried them to her. “I bet your name’s Sue Carol,” he flirted. “Nope!” she answered. “But that’s what I’m going to name my first daughter. 🙂 And she did.

    • Well, just how sweet is that?! So you’re Susan Carol. I had no idea what your middle name was. (Never thought to ask, actually.) And I love how your parents did that. I can see you incorporating that into one of your stories. (Hint, hint) 🙂

      • Actually, it’s Susan Caroll. For some reason, Mama thought by adding an extra L she’d make the name more feminine.
        Dad was named for King Carol of Rumania, who spelled his name the same as Dad did.
        A long time ago, I wanted to use Susan Caroll as my penname, but someone else used it first.
        🙂

        • Well, rats! I think Susan Caroll is a great pen name, but I guess, so did the other person. hehe
          I thought about using Lacy Clay, which was my maternal grandmother’s name, but (obviously) decided against it.

  3. Everyone used to assume I was named after Marilyn Monroe, but nope, Mom named me after a high school friend of hers. My middle name is her favorite sister’s middle name, also. Hated both of them. Would still change if I could. That’s why I use my initials a lot instead.

    Sometimes the characters come with names; sometimes I’ll look for a while; and sometimes I use symbols to represent them in the manuscript until I finally settle on one. I had a heroine named Colby (I loved the name for her — she was an only child, her family was one of the major old oil families in OK, and that was their name), but my editor didn’t like it. I wrote the entire book with Colby, then when I was done, I did a search-and-replace to something else. Keely, Kalie, something like that? LOL, she’ll always be Colby in my mind.

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