Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Name

I think the only people in this world who might use baby name websites more than expecting parents are writers. You can search for names with significant meanings, which can play a huge part in your story. You can also find names from a certain country or ethnicity, alternate spellings, and find out what's popular or not.


Honestly, I can peruse baby name websites for hours, I think names are fascinating things. I have unique first and middle names with strong meanings, both in what they translate to and why/how they were given to me.

For my latest WIP, I had to find a number of names that could be androgynous, a simple task given "unisex" categories online. This was a ton of fun. And when I decided to change the gender of a character in my first chapter, I didn't have to pick a new name.

I also had to find a handful of Maori names and couldn't have done it without online help. And my MC has to choose her own name by the end of the book. What a stressful task that was for me.

Do you use baby name websites or come up with character names on your own? Are there reasons you choose a character name beyond what it sounds like?

21 comments:

Em-Musing said...

Yes, I've used those sites. I wanted my character's names to mean something, even though the reader may not know the reason.

Martin Willoughby said...

I tend to use ordinary names as my characters are ordinary people. That said, when it comes to non-English names I'll trawl the internet for help.

I used the name of an Indian Cricketer for a starship and it took quite a lot of searching to find an appropriate female chinese name for a dead witch.

A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer said...

I totally use baby name websites for my characters! Sometimes I look for a name with a specific meaning in mind, but sometimes I'm more interested in the sound of the name or the associated time period than the meaning. I guess it just depends on the WiP :)

Suzi said...

I don't use the baby names websites as much anymore because I have to wade through so many pages of names I'd never consider. I don't usually chose names according to their meanings, but more so if I just like how it fits.

I generally reference the Social Security baby names website. You can get a list of top 1000 names for any year. It's great when you need a name from an older generation. Sometimes I reference my son's yearbook too, but more so for last names.

Robin said...

I use them occasionally, but mainly I find a name the "feels" right for my character. Last names I have fun picking from aquaintences in my past.

ilima said...

Em-Musing-Yes. Then, when people ask how you came up with that name, you have something better to say than just, "it sounded cool."

Martin-Those foreign names can be a headache to get right.

A.K.-I've yet to write a true historical piece, but finding names from a certain time period would be difficult without the internet.

Suzi-Wow. Social Security baby names is such a great idea! And I've totally done the yearbook thing as well.

Robin-Do you choose the names of people you don't like for your evil characters? :)

Cassie Mae said...

I close my eyes and bash a key. Then use a name that starts with that letter, lol.

Angela Cothran said...

I love to name characters, because I get to use names my hubby would never let my use. Or names I like but not enough to name my own kids :)

Jaycee DeLorenzo said...

I know I've used them. Often. LOL.

Fiona said...

I use baby name sites too! Like you said, it's great to find out the meaning behind names and get inspiration for your characters. I tend to pick a name based sometimes on meaning, but for the most part, on how well I think it fits my character. When you come across that right name for your character, you know it straight away, and that's the great thing about these sites! They help you come across the right name sooner rather than later.

Morgan said...

I TOTALLY love names too! We're done having kids, but I love researching names for characters... I totally love to look up name meanings and etc...

Fun post! :D

ilima said...

Cassie-So you use the scientific method of choosing names...:)

Angie-Same here.

Jaycee-I'm not alone!

Fiona-That happens to me, too. I just know it's right when I see it.

Morgan-My kids love looking up name meanings, then they dream about me having another baby. Dream on, I say. :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A great post for the letter "N",

Thanks for joining my followers.
Likewise I pay the compliament.

Yvonne.

Kelley Lynn said...

I've definitely used baby name sites. I usually only use them for my MCs though. All the other ones I just spew out of my head when I type them. :)

However, for my current MS I looked up all the constellations. Finding really only one that would work for a girl name, that's the one I chose :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I use baby name sites. I really like to know what the name means. Oh, and the fact that your character gets to pick their own name is COOL.

ilima said...

Yvonne-Welcome and thanks for following.

Kelley-A constellation for a name sounds really cool.

Jenny-It is cool, except I have grown so attached to "Nine" (she's assigned a number at birth) that it was really hard to do.

Jolene Perry said...

My husband names all my secondary characters - I yell out - quick, I need a woman, about thirty, three kids, what's her name?

And he'll shoot something back. USUALLY it works :-D

Kathryn Purdie said...

I've used baby name websites, for sure. Though for my book, a lot of my character names were already in Arthurian lore, though I changed their exact role quite a bit. I researched medieval English names too. Two names I created myself, combining parts of old names together. Names are a super fun (and sometimes super stressful) part of writing!

ilima said...

Jolene- I LOVE that method. My husband helped me name "Nine." (I originally had her as "Seven" and he didn't like it)

Katie-It is hard, but so important. I've actually had a difficult time getting past bad names in books before, sorry to say.

Christine Rains said...

I love cruising baby name sites too. I usually choose my main characters' names based on the meanings of the names. I felt sorry for my husband when I was pregnant and making a list of names for our son. I think he stopped looking at the list after a while and just crossed out them all!

Donna B. McNicol said...

Popping in from A to Z...

Yup, I use baby name generators for characters and pets. ;-)