I’ve been thinking about names lately since I’m at the planning stage for my next book.
When it comes to my stories I need the perfect names for my hero and heroine before I can write a single word. I know some people can 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 real people with characteristics I can identify with. A person’s name has power.
Some of us have family names that are 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 would 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. Other times I want an exotic name – for example my current work in progress is set in India and I wanted a name to reflect this. In my historical THE SECOND SEDUCTION I chose names that were common during the Georgian period, while in a recent book I wanted a plain name because my performer hero wanted to forget his famous background and embrace normal. I called him Bob.
My favorite baby naming book is BABY NAMES FOR NEW ZEALANDERS by Anne Matthews because I set many of my stories in my home country and like to give my characters a NZ-flavored name. You’ll also find many online baby naming sites with a Google search.
Other things I consider are:
• Will the name be shortened to a nickname i.e. Samantha to Sam.
• Do the initials spell anything? My grandmother’s initials spelled RAT.
• Do the hero and heroine’s names start with the same letter or sound similar. This might be confusing.
• Check the number of syllables in the names – varying them means less confusion for the reader.
• Make sure the Christian name and surname sound good together.
• Are the names easily pronounced or can they be sounded out easily?
So, as you can see, naming a character is just as difficult as it is naming a child and authors put a lot of thought into the matter so their “babies” aren’t teased!
Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand and writes contemporary and paranormal romance for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can visit her website at www.shelleymunro.com.