The name game.
Do you have a process for choosing your character’s names? Are there reasons behind the choices? Family? Acquaintances? Bullies from grade school? Coworkers?
I think we all have somewhat of a process. You know, we likely all have that one person we secretly would love to see on the other end of some bad karma, so BOOM, there’s your antagonist, villain, or adversary. Likewise, our protagonist might conjure up thoughts of goodness and all that’s right with the world, leading us to name them along those ideas. Friends, family, and past and present acquaintances all leave impressions on us throughout our daily lives, and subsequently leave an impression on us that is associated with their name, whether good, bad, or indifferent.
Others spend a lot of research on the naming of their characters, intensely digging and uncovering the meaning or origin of the name, the qualities that a person with that name might exhibit, and if they are historically accurate. The characters may even be assigned an appropriate birthday so that their horoscope reveals a supposed set of personality traits that matches their desired name choice.
I personally just go with the flow while writing until I think to myself that this person is sure acting like a …(insert appropriate name here). And I’ve changed the names on my characters more than once to, in my opinion, better match the situation and story. And geez, don’t even set me started on last names. That’s a bigger issue for me than the first names.
But I do tend to stay away from any iconic names, you know, like those that are so strongly associated with someone who it would be impossible to form a new and unbiased opinion of the character. So I won’t ever tell you that her name is Beyoncé, or that Elvis is the owner of the corner grocery store, especially if the story is set in the early 1900s, OK?
Any process or method you use is fine, by the way. There is, by no means, a right or wrong way to discover and decide upon the names of your characters. When it’s all said and done, you gotta do what works for you.
And right now, I gotta get back to writing about ol’ whats-his-name.