Thursday, March 3, 2011

The name game

Ever wondered how or why an author picks the names they do for their characters? I'm sure you'd have as many different answers to that question as there are authors.

I'm sure some authors pick names because they sound cool. One of the TV shows my wife and I really enjoy is Castle. Strangely enough, the show has nothing to do with Medieval times. Rather, the main character's name is Rick Castle, played by one of my favorite actors Nathan Fillion (from another one of my favorite shows Firefly).

Rick Castle is an author of murder mysteries. He creates a character named Nikki Heat based on one of the NYC detectives he shadows on her job. Why Nikki Heat? Well, you'll have to admit if you are imagining an attractive and smart NYC detective, Nikki Heat works better than, oh, let's say Bertha Flabbersnoogle.

Actually, I've often found names seem to be picked on how they sound. Some classic examples are in Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The name Scrooge sounds to me like an old curmudgeon. At the same time, would the name Tiny Tim have the same impact if he was named Tiny Emerson or Tiny Rocko?

When I pick names for my characters, I do something a little different. I actually research what the name means. For example, in The Hidden Sun, there is an owner of a candle store named Chandler. Do you know what the name Chandler means? Well, it means "candle seller". True story!

But it isn't enough to have the name mean something. It also has to look and /or sound like the character. That is the tricky part, but it also helps me create characters that are unique.

And then there are reasons people name their kids the way they do. Sometimes they are named after friends or family members. For example, my middle name, Lloyd, is from my maternal grandfather. My little brother? He was named after my paternal grandfather.

For our children, two of my four daughter's first names are directly from friends and family members, while the other two names, we just liked in and of themselves. In all cases, their middle names are directly from friends or family members.

Sometimes parents name their kids with all the same first letter. Like Quinton, Quinn, Qadir and Quetzalcoatl. (You have to be creative if you use the letter "Q")

For my wife and I, we did it sort of backwards. Each of our girls' names end with an "e" sound, like Kimberly. And even then, not all their names end with a "y". Did we do that on purpose? Not at first. It just sort of worked out that way for the first three. As for the forth one? Yes, I will most certainly say that played a big part in picking her name.

Just for giggles, what would you name a tall male, slightly balding on top, with hazel eyes and a quick smile? If you come up with a good name, you too, could be an author.

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