About names

About names

Some characters arrive in my head with definite names. Firmly planted in the first sentence they declare themselves “Michael”.  Others can’t seem to hold onto their names and I find I have called them George in one chapter and Carson in another. Once they are baptised by appearing with the same name in two chapters, it is very difficult to rename them. Their name becomes part of their character. If I discover in chapter twelve that I have three characters whose names begin with “C” and the reader is going to lose track of who is who, I must change at least two of them. At that point, I grab my baby book and google “Names for babies born in ____ (year).” That usually gives me the first name and I find the last name fairly easily.  If I have trouble finding a name there is a site on the Internet that gives first and last names.


I could waste hours finding combination of names there, looking for the perfect set. Of course, wasting hours looking for the perfect name may be considered one of the joys of writing.

Some names are exotic and seem unique. I remind myself that others are reading this site so I may run into the same name in someone else’s book. And I will have to read my own manuscript aloud to fans. If the name of the character is “Odelia Alletson” or “Gavrilla Bogdanov” (both names came from that name generator site.)I would probably stumble through a reading.

Writers usually know that names reflect the time the character was born and few parents of a present day thirty-year-old would name their child Agatha or Reginald, but some writers create names that are astounding, even for the times. Ngaio Marsh (bearing an unusual name herself) seems to get away with some doozies. Hilary Bill-Tasman is a complicated character with a complicated name, almost unbelievable even in a 1972 publication. She seems to like to give the British aristocracy impossible names.

Realism isn’t always a good idea. Taking names from real people is fraught with difficulty because people have names such as “Bugsy”, a real life thirty-something man, unless I was naming an unsavoury minor character. “M.L”, initials used as a name by a seventy-year old of my acquaintance, would be hard for a reader to accept. The initials appear to be hiding something from the reader. Names tell stories and hold stereotypes, Rambo, for instance. There is an art to choosing names. We could spend days on it.

On another note: I’m constructing my Facebook Author Page. Do come over to Facebook and like that page so I can include you when I finally get rolling. facebook.com/MarionCrookAuthor