Tag Archives: names

Naming characters

I kind of left you guys hanging. Work was busy this week, so when I got home in the evenings I was too tired to work on much.

This weekend is a self-imposed slow burn. I’m dabbling with reading Serang to make sure I can understand it before I share it with the world. I’ve also started reading a novel. I’m way behind on my reading and will try to remedy some of this over the next month.

I intend to do the edits on Serang, then work through The Viral Blues the same way without hitting it too hard.

Honestly, I’ve been working on fiction at an accelerated pace and feel the need for a slow stretch.

In order to keep this interesting, I want to talk about naming characters again. Older posts indicate I still have my daughter’s graduation program to pick from, and I frequently glance at the Major League Baseball rosters for the same reason.

One source I’ve wanted to use has kind of dried up. Phonebooks are a great roster of names. They’ve gotten hard to come by lately, so I decided to keep our local one this year.

All of the online directories do some amazing things. They do almost everything, except for what I need. You can’t just flip through names and check them out.

As an author, naming characters is important. We all know some common last names, like Smith or Jones, but not every character can have the common names.

This is the new Boise telephone directory, and it’s kind of amazing. This book used to be three inches thick, and came with a second volume that was about two inches. Things have changed.

Nobody has a land line anymore. Yellow Pages are no longer the advertising necessity they used to be. Abe demonstrates this pretty well. Keep in mind the white and yellow pages are included in this one book.

Sometimes you need a great name for a fictional business. Browsing the phone book can help here too. Maybe we come up with our own fictitious name, but it’s nice to get some inspiration from somewhere.

I’ve made two different trips to New Orleans and intended to get a telephone book each times. Both times I failed. I want this one because of the diversity. I’d like to get a swath of Cajun, Creole, American Indian, and French names to browse. It’s a big enough city to offer the diversity of many other cultures, but the regional names are a bonus.

Recently, I found a source that might be able to send me one. Fingers crossed. I’m counting on other people here so I might have to keep chipping away at it.

Until then, I still have my traditional sources, plus this Boise directory.

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What’s in a name?

Naming fictional characters is fun, and a pain at the same time. Writing short fiction can really burn through names, but there are times I don't use them at all. In The Enhanced League, I'm having to come up with a lot of names.

I've used the Major League Baseball rosters for names in the past, but had to look elsewhere for names in these tales, because they are baseball stories. I never use someone's whole name, but sometimes a ball player's last name works for me.

The fact is that I'm parked on a great source for names, and can't use them. These are family members, and even if they've passed on, their children haven't. Some of these names have a lot of character, and that helps in fiction. (Some of the actual people were quite the characters themselves.)

Check some of these out. I'll drop the last name where appropriate, because it doesn't matter anyway.

Price David XXX was my grandfather. He went by Turk his entire life. (No Turkish blood in the family) Without ever knowing the man, there is some character already there.

My other grandfather was Hiram Sterling XXX. He went by Sterling.

I have a cousin named Tyna. It isn't pronounced Teena either. It catches the eye, and is interesting.

Gwladys was my grandmother. She Americanized it to Gladys after she immigrated here from Wales. Interesting side note, she came here on the Carpathia the year before it rescued survivors of the Titanic Disaster. Americanizing your name is interesting without writing a single word being written.

Ralph Edward XXX was a great uncle. He was the first born in a large family. Someone early on called him the little chap. He was Uncle Chappie his entire life. It's interesting.

Leonard Byron XXX went by Snuffy.

How about some of these; Charles Wellington XXX, Fred Niemeyer XXX, Thomas Harrington XXX, Walter Eddison XXX. They just have a nice ring to them. Walter Eddison was a polio survivor and one of the greatest characters I've ever known. He did like so many others, and named his firstborn after himself, but Junior was never used. He's always been Little Ed, and still is at about sixty odd years old.

Speaking of Uncle Ed, many folks in my family go by their middle names. Aside from my grandfather, Stella Phyllis XXX, Price Douglas XXX. I think going by the middle name also is intriguing. It might not be first page stuff, but it makes fictional characters interesting.

A similar relative was Clarence Lee XXX, he went by Sonny.

My other grandmother was Thelma Irene XXX. That just sounds so 1920s to me. It's an old name that gets no love these days. She was quite the character herself.

How about a great aunt named Coila Leona XXX. She went by Coila, and I've never heard the name before or since.

I'll throw in a family friend too. Her name was Agatha, only she didn't pronounce it like you might think. She insisted on Ah-gay-tha.

There you have it. A great list of names that are off limits to me. In a fictional setting, not every character can be a hero, and even heroes need flaws. Someone, somewhere, would complain that I painted their mother, brother, dad, etc. in a bad light. They might believe I thought poorly of those people, and I loved them to be honest. So these names are on my no-fly-list.

You can use them, I just can't. If you want a vampire named Thelma, or an axe murderer named Chappie, have at it.

I think it's interesting when people go by their middle name. I also think it's interesting when people go by nicknames. Without writing a single word, there is a tidbit of something in the character. It's interesting when people Americanize their name too.

On a personal note, this was an interesting exercise for me. Apparently I come from a long line of characters, and some of them were pretty over the top. Think about it, my grandparents were Turk, Thelma, Gladys, and Sterling.

So how about it you guys? Do you consider family names off limits? Do you think names are intriguing? Does the nuance of a name help when you write a character? What's your favorite source of fictional names? Do you like name generators? Talk to me.

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