Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eight Tips for Naming Your Characters

 We're welcoming Shelley Munro today as our second guest blogger. She's got some great ideas, so read on!

Choosing the right name for a child can take weeks or sometimes months. Some parents pick out names for their future children when they’re mere children themselves. There are all sorts of things to consider when naming a child, and many of the same rules apply to authors when they name their characters.

When it comes to my stories I need to find the perfect names for my hero and heroine before I write a single word. Some authors call their characters A & B and slot names in later or change their character’s names at the editing stage, but I can’t. I think it’s because the names make the characters real to me – they become bona fide people with characteristics I can identify with. A person’s name has power.

Some of us have family names handed down from generation to generation while others are named after movie stars, pop stars or sports heroes. My name “Shelley” came from a book my father was reading. My parents were going to call me Michelle but decided that since the name would be shortened to Shelley, they’d call me that from the start.

When I search for character names I check baby naming books and online sites. Sometimes I’ll look at specific meanings of names and fit them to the character I have in mind. In my historical THE SPURNED VISCOUNTESS I chose names that were common during the Georgian period, while in FALLEN IDOL I wanted a plain name because my performer hero wanted to forget his famous background and embrace normal. I called him Bob.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a character name:
1. Will the name be shortened to a nickname? i.e. Samantha to Sam.
2. Do the initials spell anything? My grandmother’s initials spelled RAT and who wants their name turned into a furry creature?
3. Do the hero and heroine’s names start with the same letter or sound similar? Do the secondary characters’ names begin with the same letter too? You don’t want to confuse your readers with similar sounding names.
4. Check the number of syllables in the names. When you’re naming a hero and heroine vary the syllables so the names are very different. i.e. Michael Jones and Rose Williamson.
5. Make sure the Christian name and surname sound good together.
6. Are the names easily pronounced or can they be sounded out easily? Nothing jerks a reader out of a book more than a name that they can’t pronounce.
7. Google the names you’ve chosen for your characters. While lots of people have the same names, it pays to check them out anyway.
8. Choose names that work with your genre. i.e. if you’re writing historical romances, make sure you don’t choose a name that was first used in the 20th century.

Suggestions for Name Sources:
1. Baby naming books. My favorite one is BABY NAMES FOR NEW ZEALANDERS by Anne Matthews. I like this one because I set many of my stories in my home country and like to give my characters a NZ-flavored name.
2. Online baby naming sites. Just do a Google search and you’ll come up with dozens.
3. The telephone book – especially good for surnames.
4. SPAM – yes, those annoying spam emails. Before you hit delete check out some of the names in the From field.
5. The closing credits on television shows and movies.
Conclusion: Naming a character is just as difficult as naming a child and authors must put a lot of thought into the matter so their “babies” aren’t teased or ridiculed.

(Diana's note: your activity is below Shelley's bio)

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Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.
Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her very own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at http://www.shelleymunro.com.
TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/ShelleyMunro


If you already have a work in progress, write a journal entry as to why you chose the names you did for your characters. Do some research on the names (use Shelley's ideas above for information); does the research support your choice? How does that change/support your story?

If you're just starting a piece, use Shelley's step-by-step above to help you make your decisions. Once you've made them, write a journal entry that records the steps you took. Use this record to help keep you on track as you write your story.

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