Sunday, April 27, 2014

Five Tips for Naming Your Character: Writer Tip of the Week

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I'm very excited to start something on this blog called: Writer Tip of the Week. *squee*

I always love going to other sites and reading their tips. It has helped me so much over the years, but I have never felt qualified to offer any sort of advice to another writer... in blog form anyway.

A few weeks ago, I released my seventh book--- my Seventh Book! I'm as shocked as you since I'd  put my first one out 2 years ago. And I got to thinking, in that time, I actually have learned a lot that I feel I am qualified to tell people about.

That's where Writer Tip of the Week comes in.

Let's get right to it.

*A name either clicks or it doesn't. If it doesn't, keep trying until it does.

Naming characters is hard. Sometimes, it is harder than naming your own kids (am I the only one who has felt like that?) I have three daughters, but I have over fifty characters in all of my books combined. That's a lot of names.

Sometimes you can write an entire book and at the end, change the leads name. I've done that twice now. Glad I did it both times. The names I had chosen were nice names, pretty names, but something about them didn't *fit*.

For example, in my book, CROSSING THE DEEP, the main character's name was Ruth. For about five drafts, she was Ruth. But it just didn't fit. I went through about thirty others (along with my poor sister) until I decided on Rachel. Once I heard the name, it fit.

Actually, funny story, Rachel was one of the first names I thought of for her, but I didn't want to use it (long story). In the end, my character was a Rachel-- she just was.
 1) Look online for baby names-- especially if you are writing from a different decade or era

          I've just finished my first regency/fairy tale book (yay!). One of the first things I had to do was pick names for my characters so I googled "Popular Baby Names-- 1800s". There are sites that tell you these things. Use them. It is fun to look back at how names have evolved over the years.

          Writing a book set in the 90s? I bet you could get by with Kelly... or Heather... or Kristin ;)

          I'll post a list of baby name sites at the bottom of this post.

2) Is the name I like similar to another book character?

           Thankfully, I had a character named Tobias in The Deception of Devin Miller before I'd ever heard about Divergent. It is an awesome name. Can you still use it? Of course! You can't copyright a person's name, but you have to consider if your audience thinks you are out and out stealing the name. Have a character named Four-- people might start going hmmmmmmmm...


3) Famous Faces

          So, the perfect name for your character is 'Brad Pitt'. Probably not a good idea unless you are going for some sort of irony. Even then, I still wouldn't recommend it.

4) Deulaia Eanntuarntaiee

        IE, make sure your character's name is easy to read or at least sound out for the next 200 pages. Or at least give some sort of phonetic spelling somewhere in the book. If it is a sci-fi book, you can get away with more.

5) Does the first name flow with the last name

        Try it out. Does it work together? I've changed a few character names in my time because I didn't like how the two sounded together.

BONUS: Does it fit the character?

        You know your character better than anybody. Does the name you chose for him/her fit the character? IE does it fit how they act. Of course, we all know we aren't our names. My mother could have named me Gertrude as easily as she named me Kelly. Books have a little bit more leeway in that department. A writer, especially after the end of the first draft, knows the character and knows if the name fits. That is a great time to do a gut check-- does the name fit? Do you feel comfortable with it? Can you see ___________ as your character?

 I don't know about you, but I feel an uneasiness if I have name that doesn't fit. And when I finally find one that "fits", I'm calm. Leave a comment below and tell me if you are the same way. (I hope so...)

 ON A SIDE NOTE: One last important tip on names after I've given you six rules for naming your character... Do you really care if your character doesn't abide by any naming "rule"?
If, in your heart of hearts, you want to name your regency princess Tiffany, go for it... you'll probably be called out on it-- but in the end it is your book. You have to decide what's right for you... and (if you are trying to get an agent) what will turn him/her off completely.

 Do you have any character naming stories? Which names have you changed? Leave a comment and let me know.

 ~Kelly Martin
{Kelly is the writer of seven published novels, the mommy to three girls, and the wife of one handsome man. When she isn't writing, she is plotting-- books, not revenge... because that would be wrong. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. It's never boring.}

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