Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Naming Characters

What we name our characters, especially our main characters, can make or break our stories. An oft-used example of a poor choice is Pansy, the name Margaret Mitchell was going to give her cunning, provocative heroine until she wisely changed it to Scarlet.

Choosing the perfect name isn’t easy. It should fit the character’s personality, perhaps even his or her appearance, and it absolutely must be appropriate for the story’s time period.

While I was writing Brute Heart, a contemporary novel set in Oregon, I found names for every one of my characters, major or minor, first name as well as last name, on a map of Oregon. I was amazed at the rich storehouse of names scattered across that map--cities, towns, wide spots in the road, parks, counties, and countless topographical features. Some of the many names I ended up using were Jordan (Jordan Valley), Riley (a small town), Douglas (Douglas County), Cooper (Cooper Mountain), Annie (Annie Springs), and Jude (Jude Lake).

Take a look at a map of your own state, one that shows both topographical and political features. If you don't find good names there for your characters, spend some time with a detailed map of Oregon, a state that has a penchant for unusual names such as Boring, Shedd, Bakeoven, and Drain (all small towns). I doubt I’ll ever use those four names for characters, but what interesting names they’d be for settings.

Ginger Dehlinger

“fiction embraced by fact”

Brute Heart

Never Done

1 comment:

Cj Fosdick said...

Ginger, read your WRP blog! Good idea with maps! I often use first or last names of people I know, but never their whole name together. It kind of "honors" the person when I tell them they are one of my characters (in name only).