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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Name Game, Part 2

I'm knocking out the next installment in this series because I just got a big, obnoxious assignment at work that is going to suck up a lot of time and energy for the next week, so I'm using the rest of tonight to pretend it doesn't exist. (But it should pay reasonably well, so silver linings and all that.)

Next up on the topic of names: characters who name themselves. I know what you're thinking - isn't the writer in charge? Shouldn't the writer have control over what the characters are named? One would think. After all, it's not like my children named themselves. (Though that could have saved a few days of strenuous discussion. And I do know more than one set of parents who went into the hospital with a name picked out, saw their baby for the first time, and wound up going with something completely different.)

Every now and then when a character first starts to materialize in my mind, there's immediately a name associated with him/her. I don't know why or how it happens. Sometimes I've even tried to fight back against that strong association between the character and the name, and it just doesn't feel right. The same thing has happened to me with titles. As regular readers here know by now, sometimes the title comes to me right away, while other times I struggle to pick a good one.

I recently experienced this phenomenon when I was first planning for Out of Orbit. As soon as the heroine started taking shape, she became Jasmine. It's not like Jasmine is a name I particularly like (or dislike). I hadn't planned on it being symbolic in any way, though I did wind up running with it and using the flower meaning. I even tossed around a few alternatives, but nope. Always and forever, she was and will be Jasmine.

The same thing happened with April in Elysium. Again, I don't have any strong feelings toward the name either way. No hidden meanings there. She was just April. That's it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of characters to name in my new WIP. Sure enough, some of them named themselves. Several of the insta-names I adopted right away, while others I wanted to think about more. However, as I was plotting out certain points, I found myself thinking things like, "Oh, Paul will totally react in this way", when Paul was one of the names I wasn't sure about. I guess he's Paul, then.

So much for being in control.


  1. They totally have to have the right name! Sometimes I'm not sure I like a character's name either. I had a character named Caroline a few years ago. I would never name any of my characters that in a thousand years. I don't hate it, it's just very normal. Lol! But she's awesome, and that's her name so I went with it. So much for being in control, indeed! But I love it when they do that. :)

  2. I agree, the writer is in control. I've never been one of those "my characters just do what they want!" sorts of people. But, a reason I almost never outline is as I'm writing the story/book, other (better?) ideas unfold for me, and things take different directions.

    That said, in my werewolf books, there was a character named Dagny for the first draft. Dagny is a badass, Dagny is important. But the name didn't go. Didn't fit with the family, the area, the history. So Dagny became Morgan, and it was like finding that last piece of a puzzle that you're doing upside down so you can't see what the picture is.