Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baby Names and Character Names

My nephew Jake is 3.5 years old and he’s excited to become a big brother. His mom (my sister) is expecting in mid-June. Jake is adamant that the baby is a boy because he wants a “bubby.” In fact, he called his most recent cousin (my Lilly) “Bubby Willy” for a while because he was kind of in denial that she was another girl cousin. Jake is also adamant that his new baby’s name will be Isaac. Of the list that my sister and bro-in-law are considering, that is the only one Jake likes, and he insists he’s getting a brother named Isaac. The ultrasound will (hopefully!) give us the verdict soon, and we’ll know if Jakes is right.

My sister has several boy names on her list, but she was having trouble coming up with any girl names she really liked. We came up with our girls’ names pretty easily, but I did have fun searching several baby name websites just to get ideas, meanings of names, etc. There are several good sites out there if you just google “baby names”. Another neat place to search is on the Social Security web page, where you can enter a year to find out the most popular baby names, going as far back as 1880.

I have to be mindful of character names when scheduling and contracting new Heartsongs. I don’t want to have too many like-named characters in the four books that will release to club members in the same shipment. Lately we’ve seen a lot of female characters named Ellie or Lily or Lilly, which, of course, I think is a great name, but we still can’t name every girl that. :)

I’ve blogged before about walking through cemeteries to find inspiration for names. What websites, tools, or inspiration do you use when your characters are born in your mind and you’re naming them?


Julie Jarnagin said...

That's the website I use when I choose character names. My husband is also great at helping me come up with names.

Margaret said...

I peruse the obituaries in newspapers for ideas. I hope that doesn't sound too morbid.

Barbara Curtis said...

Naming the characters is one of my very favorite parts of writing. I enjoy finding just the right name and tying it in with its meaning, especially for a Christian meaning.

I use a baby name book that gives Christian meanings. And another favorite is The Writer's Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook (mine is 1994) which not only gives the meanings but breaks the names (and spellings) down by country and gives background information per country--like if the surname is placed before the first name or to add "ne" to a husband's given name for a Hungarian name instead of using "Mrs." And also it gives genre-specific tips in choosing names.

Katie Hart - Freelance Writer said...

That's what I've been working on today - character names for a new story idea! I have quite a collection of baby name books I've picked up at library book sales, and I browse through them whenever I'm stuck. The 50,000 name ones are good for finding odd names for fantasy characters, but smaller ones are usually better for contemporary novels. If I do choose an odd name for a contemporary story, I try to balance it out with more common names. The hardest part for me is last names. The phone book doesn't help much.

Lynette Sowell said...

Someone recommended the "Baby Name Survey" book to me, and it's a fun resource because it shows not only what names mean, but personalities associated with the names.

I find I have favorite character names that it's easy to slip into using. Or two characters in a book with similar names can happen also.

My day job is in the medical field. I encounter hundreds of names every week. Occasionally I will hear a first name that stands out to me, and I will save it. Sometimes a last name, too.

Carla Gade said...

Thanks for pointing us to your blog post on cemetery wanderings for writers inspiration. That is one of my favorite things to do, much to my family's concern. LOL! Really though, they know I go there for story inspiration, for name hunting, and for peace (no voices there). I'm a genealogy buff and often go to vital statistics and military records in the area of the story I'm writing to find names. I also search for surnames by region or nationality. Some of the old names, though authentic, would be so peculiar to the reader's ear that they cannot be used except perhaps for an equally peculiar character. I find that a balance needs to be struck when choosing a name from the distant past. It needs to sound authentic, unique, and be readable.

Erica Vetsch said...

Eeek! Guilty! I've had a Lily and an Ellie in recent mss. :D

I read biographies to find interesting names. The one I'm currently trying to work into a ms is Cadwallader. Cadwallader Washburn was an affluent flour-miller in Minneapolis and I love his name.

Martha W. Rogers said...

Since I write historicals, I like to use the website that gives you popular names for different decades. Helps to make sure the name I want to use was in use then. I also have a book with surnames and first names for differnt nationalities. I used it to find good Irish names for my wip. Choosing names can be fun and for my Riverwalk story, I had the guys all have names starting with C and then revealed the reason at the end. Most people thought it was clever. BTW: I like Isaac too and think it'd be a good name for a baby brother.