Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

Ok not really, but I've been having issues with names lately. Like a mother preparing to give birth, I agonize over names.

I want my characters names to be something good. Something that won't get them beaten up on the play ground. Know what I mean?

But... (there is always a but, isn't there?)

I'm a pantser and as such, I don't plot and plan, I just write when the story hits me. I have to get it out of my head quickly and on to the paper before I lose it.

With that in mind I generally use filler names so I have something to call my little characters.

They usually start out with generic (common) names; Mike, Bob, George, Jennifer (Jen), Amy, etc..

There is only one problem with this. Sometimes, I get about halfway through a story and decide I hate the name and it stalls me in my writing.

Well, I did that this weekend.

I'm 6k words into, what eventually will be, a novella and I found I hated my main characters name. I hated every time I had to type it and it was preventing me from moving forward. She wasn't an, Amy. The name didn't fit the personality I had given her. I just couldn't see her with that name. She needed something better, something stronger, something... different.

So, I popped open the find feature and started replacing with all kinds of random names. She went from; Mina to Natasha to Giselle and finally landed on Kendra. I'm still not happy with it, but I can't spend all day on find and replace. I do still have a story to write. Kendra should do for now, it feels unique enough to go with the personalty and look I have given her.

Just a quick aside, ever met a person and thought to yourself, "Yep, she looks like a Jennifer." That's kind of the vibe I have with my characters. They need to look and feel right, matching with their names.

Ok, question time for you, blogger land. Do you agonize over character names like this? Have they ever prevented you from writing because you just don't see the character by the name you gave it?


Roni Loren said...

This is oh so timely. I spent an hour today going through my baby names book, lol. I am about to start a new WIP and I needed my names. I can't start and use filler names. The name is such an integral part of the character for me that I have to have them in place before I start writing. (Although I do a vague outline using MC-main character-and H.-for hero-before names are set). And then once I start writing, I can't change the names because, well, that's there name. Guess I'm more plotter than pantser.

For the record, I like Kendra. :)

Tess said...

Oh, yes. I do. I picked up a baby names book at a dime store years back and it has been of some help. Worth the $1.50 I paid for it :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Shoot! I just left a really long comment and clicked away before it took, so here's the short version. I've been struggling with names lately too. I spent a good part of the morning on an Irish baby name's website. I found one that I like, but I have several more to go.

Katie Salidas said...

This is one of my favorite resources for names. A baby book is a great idea too!

Danyelle L. said...

It depends on the character. Some are more forthcoming than others. Generally, I try to attach some symbolic meaning to the name as well, so online baby namers are great. :D Some characters, however, show up on my doorstep with name and personality, as well as their part in the story, in their hand. :D

Anonymous said...

The kernels of ideas for my characters often come from former students. I write YA and taught in an alternative school for fifteen years. Sometimes I'll start with name that I can really put a face and voice to. Eventually the character comes into their own and I change the name.

The other thing I do with names is just make a note if I want to change it and keep writing. The right name will come.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Yes! I'll wait weeks until the right name comes to me. It never occurred to use a filler name. That's a great idea!

Pen Pen said...

How funny! I thought I was the only one with this problem!! I've changed the names of my characters in my WIP like...8 times so far! I do the "find/replace" option in word, and sometimes I miss ones and when my boyfriend edits, he's like- "Who is Molly?!"
I've actually thought a lot about this subject, so maybe I can share good info!! I'd say- Make SURE ur characters have a name that someone born in their birth year would have.(they don't HAVE to-they can be unique, but don't give ALL the characters super original names!)
ALso- I sugges watching movies and/or reading books and looking for a character with similar "personality traits" as the character you're looking to name and u can use parts of their name to make urs. That way, it's almost a clue for readers- Example: I had a character named Elizabeth, and she had many character traits that were akin to Elizabeth Bennett from 'Pride and Prejudice'. Not everybody will catch on, but there will be a few readers who will be like- "Did you MEAN to name her Elizabeth as a little clue to her personality/personal struggle?! It's fun to see the readers who DO catch on!
I've also used last names, or middle names from real life people that could work the same way-EX: i used the name, Paul Schaefer for an evil character who was abusing a child. I based the name off a real guy who was a Nazi and then started a cult where he abused members.

I hope I'm making sense with this...I may have just babbled on... :)

Katie Salidas said...

Great points about keeping names current with the time and writing notes about the characters as you go. You guys are a great wealth of knowledge.

JAScribbles said...

That is so funny that we both blogged about names! I agree that names have to fit. I tend to think through my stories pretty thoroughly before they go on paper. So changing a name is tough for me but I've done it.

storyqueen said...

I can't start the story without the, sometimes I will change it later, but I have to know the name of the MC. However, there are those other characters that just kind of show up in the writing (a typical result of being a pantster) and sometimes I have noooooo idea of the name. Ugggh!


Natalie said...

Um yes. On my first manuscript I changed the 3 main characters names many, many times. When I wrote the next manuscript I started with names that fit the main characters really well, so I only changed names of secondary characters.

Deb said...

I worry about the main characters names the most and once I choose them I have a hard time changing them. I use a lot of filler names to start, the villain, the goon, etc.

Elana Johnson said...

I can honestly say that I've never had this problem with an MC. My secondary characters generally go through an identity crisis though.

I always choose names that can be shortened. There's something I love about nicknames.

Veronica and Thomas said...

I hate trying to figure out names. Whenever I need them I post something on my sights for suggestions and than usually use suggested ones. My kids' names get used a lot until I come up with the ones that I like the best. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in this adventure.

Roni Loren said...

You have a gift over at my blog. :)

Melissa Hurst said...

I used a baby name book to find the names. My main character's name for my WIP just came to me, but I had to think about the supporting characters a lot. I had to have them selected before I wrote one word in my story.

About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.