Thursday, November 6, 2014

What's In A Name? by Susan Tuttle

So I recently started a new WIP and, as such, was digging into my characters. I have to say, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Getting to know them. Searching for their faces. Learning about their idiosyncrasies. But one part that can stump me is their names.

Do I go with something from the year they were born? Or something that tops the 2014 most popular list? I mean, I write contemporary, so really, the door stands wide open. Is my character born in the country or a city girl? Blonde or brunette? I can pour over lists on Nameberry.com all afternoon. It’s like naming one of my children all over again! Because the name has to fit, it works not only with the mood of the story but also helps shape the picture of the character being created.

You can make a name something the character has fought their whole life or deepen how the reader views them. You can have it be a part of the theme you’re weaving or finally get to use that name you would have given one of your kiddos if you’d had more—don’t laugh, I’ve done it:) There are endless options. So I’m curious…how do other writers pick names? What is the most important aspect of grabbing that label for your hero or heroine? And, as a reader, what do you like to see in a character’s name? Would you ever name a city girl Talulah or a businessman Chet?

I’d love to hear how and where you come up with names. So tell me, what’s in a name when you’re writing?

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Susan Tuttle
Susan Tuttle is a homeschooling mom of three who is crazy about coffee, dark chocolate, and words—both reading and writing them. Combine that love of words with her passion for leading women to a life-changing encounter with Christ, and you’ll find her crafting Inspirational Contemporary Romance stories laced with humor, love, and healing transformations. When not cheering on her Ironman hubby, chasing the family dog, or tackling complex math problems to teach her kids (yes, even the third grader), you can catch Susan at her blog, Steps.

18 comments:

  1. I can definitely see a city girl named Talulah.

    I love picking names. Yes, it's like naming children I don't have to raise but for a few months. :) I write historicals, though, so I have to be careful which names I use. There are some popular names from the period that just don't appeal to me. Often, I look for something used at the time, but a bit more unusual. Many of those popular names are popular again now, so it can give my stories an authentic, but current, tone. Thanks, Susan.

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    1. I have a friend who writes historicals and I always LOVE her names:) Helps put me into the setting!

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  2. I like to collect unusual names that I see. I saw a teller in a bank yesterday named, Cheslyn. Isn't that a cool name?

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    1. Oh, yes! Love that name, Angie.

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    2. I'm in agreement! Great name. And I love how you found it!

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    3. Okay, you've talked me into it! (Although it wasn't very hard.)

      Thanks, y'all!

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  3. I agree--my characters' names have to fit them just right! One of my favorite resources is The Writer's Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook. For my historical novels, I also check the popular names from the era when my characters would have been born. Another interesting source is the obituary section of the newspaper.

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    1. Oooh, I've never used that book. I'll have to check it out!

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  4. Talulah? Chet? Not sure I would use those names, but I love the name Cheslyn. Names are important to me, but I have a little flexibility since I write contemporaries. Even so, the name has to fit the character. My hero names steer toward macho: Trey, Renner, Hunter, etc, mainly because of their occupations.Thanks for the Nameberry tip, Susan! Heading there to visit...

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    1. I've always loved your names, Dora! And I for sure thought you'd snag Talulah or Chet;)

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  5. Wonderful post, Susan. I write mostly historicals so that's challenging in itself. I refuse to use ancestral names like Olga and Oscar...yet typical names from the 1870's like Tom and Martha aren't romantic enough for me LOL. Sorry, any Tom's and Martha's out there. My three-year old grandson has a friend at preschool named Jagger. I just think that's gotta come into play somehow...Social Security registries are good year by year I've heard, although I don't do them.

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    1. That's another place I haven't looked, SS records...and my dad's name is Tom;) LOL. I do agree though that certain names simply don't capture the person you're writing. I think that's why sometimes I'll even start with a name and as I get to know my character better, change it. Hasn't happened often, but I have done it!

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    2. When you're talking family names, you don't have to worry about the historical factor. If the name was ever in my imaginary family, then it's fair game. ;)

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  6. The best names I find are real ones and my best sources are newspapers and accident reports. I tend to mix up the surnames names with firsts. I found the name of Heaven for a little girl, Padraic in accident reports, and a surnames Cremins and Mondragon for my new contemporary Christian novel from TKD class.

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    1. Same here, Lira. Some surnames work really well for first names, and fit perfectly. :)

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