Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Today I’d like to talk about character names and how to choose them.
This is probably as individualized as each writer’s unique voice. There is no wrong or right way to choose a name, but one thing I would caution is not to choose one that someone well-known or highly recognizable is using. The last thing you want is to become tangled up in legal issues because someone took exception to you using their name, or one very close to it, in an erotic romance novel. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but your good intentions could easily be misconstrued.
So, aside from scouring the tabloids or CNN for name ideas, where do you begin?
I like to match up the type of genre with my character names if possible. For example, if I’m writing something historical, I would research common names from that period, and then branch out a bit so not everyone is called William or Mary. Research also has a more practical purpose. If you’re writing a romance set in the Middle Ages, for example, you might want to make sure the name you choose was in use during that time.
Fantasy romance, anyone? The sky’s the limit here. Readers of fantasy love complicated, difficult-to-spell names that are taken from old legends or mythical languages. So have a great time, but make sure your readers can at least make a stab at pronouncing the name while they read it. Either that, or provide a glossary that spells out the more unusual names phoenetically.
Paranormal romance readers tend to like their hero names dark and brooding, to go along with that whole alpha thing. Strong, dominant names are also preferred. Poke around ghost stories, old legends, and gothic stories for ideas.
When writing contemporary, literally anything goes, but you can still individualize your character’s names by choosing something about them to focus on. Their heritage, for example, or perhaps they were named after a beloved family member, and that person plays a part in the story?
Aside from googling “baby names,” or “most popular girl names in 1969,” you can also search sites like the ones below:
http://babynames.net With this one, you can search by letter of first name, country of origin, or even decade.
http://www.mithrilandmages.com/utilities/MedievalBrowse.php This is an awesome site to use even if you aren’t writing an historical. You can search it to find unusual names from any era.
http://ilovewerewolves.com/wolf-names-and-meanings/ Wolf names, anyone?
http://www.20k-names.com/index.htm This is another site where you can find female or male names from almost any country on the planet.
It can be challenging coming up with names you haven’t used, especially when you’re up there in the double digits of books published, but for me, that’s half the fun of shaping a new character.
Whatever name you choose, make sure you own it. Make that character unique, and the name will stand out because of the person.
Until next week, Happy Writing!!