Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Name That Character

If you've read anything I've written on blog posts or message boards, you know one of the first things I do after sketching an idea for a new story is to name my characters. Once they have a name they come to life for me. They take on facial features, body types, hair color and eye color, and a definite personality. For me, the name is very important. Not only can't I write them without a name, but once that name is cemented in my brain, it's very difficult to think of that character as anyone else. It's because of this I had so much trouble getting back into revising Crossing the Dark Moon. You see, I changed the name of my hero and heroine. Long story. And a different blog post. :)

For today, I'd like to talk about Faina Daniels and Jace Blackmon, the hero and heroine of The Last Soul. Faina is a demon. She's been dead one hundred and fifty years. In order to create her demon world I had to figure out what I was going to call the other inhabitants. I've never written a story with demons as characters before. I've done contemporary, time travel back to WWII and fantasy. Crossing the Dark Moon takes place in an alternate universe, similar to our medieval period, so all the characters have medieval names. But demons? Where to start?

It's amazing what you can find on Google. I literally googled (when did that become a verb?) "demon names" and all sorts of sites popped up. Go on and try it. I'll wait for you. Wasn't that fun? And while I was looking for interesting names I found out demons have specific jobs. Like Apollyon the king of demons. He's named in the Book of Revelations. Or Mastema, the leader of fallen angels whose job it is to tempt men to sin and accuse them before God.

Some names I paired with their specific job, but others I took a bit of liberty with and changed their job description a little. Faina isn't a demon name, because my heroine used to be human. It's actually a Russian name that means shining. When I found it, I pictured blonde hair and startling blue eyes, and Faina was born.

Jace isn't a demon name either. My hero is a philanthropist and the son of a Baptist preacher, so you can imagine how meeting a demon posing as a human rocks his world. As near as I can tell, Jace is of English origin and is a shortened version of Jason or other variants. I chose the name because I knew a man named Jace. We went out on one date. And no, I didn't base the hero of The Last Soul on this man. Not even close. I just like the name.

The reason we only went out on one date, you ask? Well, it's because when he told me his favorite thing to do on a Saturday afternoon was drink beer in front of the TV until he passed out, I decided he might not be quite what I was looking for. Truth be told, I wasn't sure what I was looking for at the time, but I knew it wasn't that. :)

But I digress... I'd love to hear how you name your characters. Do you choose themes? Time periods? Certain meanings? Do you base them on people you know, or movie characters? Tell me about the names you choose, or about certain names you really love, and why.


  1. I too Google names. I had to check on Irish names the other day and it worked fine for me. If the character's nice, then I'll try to find a nice name and if he's bad then I'll find one I hate. It's amazing that there are names you hate - I think it's to do with people you know with that name. I'd never call a good character "Tony" :)

  2. My characters just seem to name themselves as soon as they start talking to me.

  3. Sue, I hardly ever name my characters after people I know. Well, not the main ones, anyway.

  4. Jez, that's awesome your characters tell your their names. I struggle with names at times. They have to be perfect or I can't even start the story.

  5. I named one of my heroines after a critique partner who kept pulling me out of the holes I wrote myself into. Both my cp and the character are intrepid and smart, but after that their similarities wane. Grin. I guess they also share the name.

  6. I angst a lot over character names. I know some writers can pluck them out of thin air, but they have to feel - or sound - right to me. I use a couple of baby name books - and do take the meanings of the names into account.

    I've have chosen NOT to name a couple of characters, as I wanted the reader to imagine themselves in their shoes.

  7. Julia, I love the idea of not naming characters! :)

  8. My characters tell me their names. My first heroine had a name I don't even like that much (ie: would never name my kids...) but it was her name. THEN I google them to be sure there aren't real people with that name who would be annoyed. And for super minor characters or places, I use some portion of my children's names, just to amuse them.

  9. I like to look at surname lists online, too -- usually non-boring-American lists. Sometimes the Social Security popular names database can be interesting, especially the one from years ago instead of current.

  10. Allyson, I once changed the spelling of the last name of one of my characters because I realized I'd inadvertently named her after someone real.

  11. Jody, I never thought of using the SS database. Great idea!


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