I look at her as a friend, mentor, and role model, which is why when she suggested character names as a topic for her guest post, I jumped on it immediately. You all probably know I'm Filipino-Chinese and as such, I often run out of Western-sounding names to use for my major and minor characters. In your countries, Tom, Dick, Harry sound common enough. But here in mine, it's something like Juan, Jose, and Pedro - yes, it's very Latin and that's because for hundreds of years we were under Spanish rule.
Surnames are even harder for me because we definitely don't have anyone here with last names such as Smith, West, or Johnson. Here it's dela Cruz for Filipinos or something like Tan or Lee for the Chinese - obviously not surnames I can use to describe someone blond and blue-eyed or a green-eyed redhead.
And that's just me. Other authors also have dilemmas about choosing and finding the right character names because of a variety of reasons. If you are one of us, then you will definitely find this post helpful!
When I think about naming characters, a scene from the TV show The Middle comes to mind. The mother on the show talked about her children’s names and how she and her husband chose “cool” names for their sons, hoping that it would help them to be cool. It worked for the oldest son Axl, who is as cool as they come, but it backfired for the youngest son Brick, who is the very opposite of cool. But unlike a mother choosing a name and wondering if her child will be the epitome of the name, an author can choose a name knowing in advance what the character’s personality is.
For a strong character, an author might choose a traditionally strong name like Alexander, which means “shield and defender of mankind” or Liam, which means “unwavering protector”. For a lovely woman, a name that means beauty or beautiful like Belinda or Ella might be appropriate. Conversely, if a character is evil or ugly inside, an author might choose a name like Mary that means bitter or a name that conjures images of evil, like Malice. A heroine with blue eyes might be called Sapphire or Beryl. A hero that likes to hunt might be called Hunter or Chase. Changing the spelling of a name can take it from normal to unique: Helyn instead of Helen, Dayvid instead of David.
Names appropriate to genre are important as well. An historical author wouldn’t want to name an 18th Century English heroine Misty or a Viking marauder Rizzo. Who would follow an alpha werewolf named Gomer or want to be seduced by a vampiress named Tiffany? Historically speaking, research can be done to find names popular to various time periods and locations through Google or other internet search engines. For other genres that aren’t linked to specific times in history (YA, Paranormal, NA, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, Etc.)…where does one go to find names?
The resources for finding names are as diverse as the names themselves. On name websites, searches can be done for names with particular meanings (love, beauty, strength, hope), nationalities (English, Dutch, German), or that start with a particular letter.
Here are some of my favorite online name resources:
Two other resources I use for names are the dictionary and thesaurus. No kidding!
Some of the best names I’ve come up with were found in the dictionary or thesaurus, not only for first and last names, but also for place names such as bars, towns, and restaurants. Have a vampire club? Look up the word vampire in the thesaurus and you’ll find hellion, fiend, succubus. Would you go to a club named Hellion’s? I would! Need to name a bar on campus for your NA bar crowd? Look up alcohol and you’ll find booze, hootch, toddy. I would definitely have gone to a bar named Hootch’s when I was in college. Sounds like a fun place.
I used the dictionary for finding names in my sixth wiccan-were-bear book, A Twitch of Tail. Hero were-tiger Melo needed a brother in the story to share his mate with. Melo is warm and loving, and even though he is capable of protecting their shared mate, I wanted his brother to be the complete opposite of him so they could balance each other. While writing the story, I was thinking about tiger claws and looked up the word “claw” in the dictionary and read the various words related to claw, eventually finding the “claw of a bird of prey”, otherwise known as a talon. I changed the spelling to make it unique - Tahlon - and gave him a personality that meshed well with Melo’s. Tahlon is aggressive and possessive. His name epitomizes strength and power. Melo’s name conjures images of softer things in my mind, like sweetness and nurturing, and he balances the rougher edges of Tahlon’s personality.
Last names (surnames) can be as important as first names for characters and as equally difficult to come up with. Where do I get my inspiration for last names? Everywhere! I have a notebook that is full of not only first names that I like, but also last names. When I’m watching television or movies, listening to music, or watching videos on YouTube, I pay attention to the last names of characters, actors, and singers, and write down any that appeal to me. This can be especially helpful to those authors from other countries that are looking for appropriate names for characters from other countries.
Three websites I use frequently for naming inspiration:
1. http://www.imdb.com (the Internet Movie Database for looking up the names of characters/actors)
The character names of my own works that I love the most include Logan (Wolf’s Mate #6), Dante (Hyena Heat #1), Calliope (Wolf’s Mate #3), and Lachlyn (Ashland Pride #2). My favorite character names from other authors include Wrath (JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood), Fury (Laurann Dohner’s New Species), Silence (NJ Walter’s Embracing Silence), and Salome (Jayne Rylon’s Hot Rods #2).
What are some of your favorite names from books, TV, and movies? What would your perfect hero or heroine be named?