Name Mistake

19 Aug

When my grandmother, Ellen, came home from the hospital, her brother said, “She looks like a Nancy.” The name stuck and to this day she is “Nan” or “Nana.”

I’ve met lots of people like this. They just don’t look or act like their names. Fortunately, with characters, I get to “know” their personality before I decide a name. That makes it easier to prevent a name mistake. It also gives me more to consider when finding the perfect name.

Katie highlighted two classic examples of perfectly named characters. Could Amelia Bedelia be called Suzie? I don’t think so. And she’s right about “Alexander” making his bad day seem even more serious.

So how do I name my characters?

I start by listing some of the most prevalent character traits. The antagonist in my middle grade chapter book is super girly, bossy, and a bit of a goody-two-shoes.

Next I search for names (on a baby name site) with meanings associated to those character traits. For that character my finalists were Lacy and Kenna. I decided on Lacy. It originated from “Lassy” and means lace-like. What could be more feminine?

In some cases, I want the name to be a little ironic. The character I used in last week’s simile example is a tomboy, a little disheveled, and well-meaning, but disaster tends to follow her. I chose Mabel, which means delicate, as her name.

A character’s name isn’t final until I say it is. So, if it doesn’t feel right, I can always change it. Or add a nickname…

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Character


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