It’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post to boost my confidence and encourage myself to engage with the writing community. The IWSG post on the first Wednesday of every month.
This month’s co-hosts are: Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor.
Last month I spent little time actually writing but loads of time trying to figure out solutions to plot problems and developing my characters. I’ve even been deliberating about whether I’m focusing on the wrong character or ought to have multiple POVs. I am so excited about this story, but it seems to be getting more and more complicated and I keep thinking up so many different ways it could go. I know I just need to pick one and get on with it, but I am one of those writers who likes to have everything planned out thoroughly so I have a clear vision in my mind.
What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?
I definitely find it harder to come up with character names. Good titles normally come to me early on during the first draft and I normally base them on a particular theme, symbol or motif from the story. If I haven’t come up with a fitting title, I’m happy to give it a silly working title like ‘The One Where Aliens Invade and Everyone Dies’ until I can come up with a better one.
Character names are more challenging for me because I find it hard to write my first draft until I have the perfect names picked out. Character names are really important to me as they allow me to really connect with who my character is. I take a long time thinking about them and I usually change my mind several times.
Here are some of the criteria I use when considering character names:
- Has an interesting meaning or association, preferably not too obvious.
- Fits with my internal image of the character.
- Works well in context (i.e realistic for the time period and setting).
- Looks aesthetically pleasing when written down.
- Sounds nice when spoken and is easy to pronounce.
- Works well with the other characters’ names and is distinct from them (i.e not Anna, Anya, Abi and Alix!)
- Could be shortened to a nickname if needed.
- Not an overused name in this genre.
I have been ‘collecting’ names for years, in a huge spreadsheet. Every time I hear or see an interesting name I add it to my list, but I still usually end up scouring baby naming sites until I find the perfect fit.
Before you go…
As a writer or reader, do character names and titles matter to you? Which are easier for you to come up with? What criteria do you use to choose your names?
Yes to both. Sometimes one or the other really influences the main idea of the story. I do like to have names whose root meanings are integral to their character, or sometimes in the opposite direction.
As to your WIP, I have a suggestion that probably many writers might not endorse: go with the work as it is going, convoluted and all. Get to the end, whatever path it takes, and then put it down for a week. Then edit, edit, edit out all the bits and pieces that clog down this particular story. Maybe there’s another piece of work in the words that end up on the editing floor.
I like that suggestion, thank you Stuart!
What a great list you have to determine your character names! That is an excellent way the select the right ones. I’ve always just gone with feelings which is not the best way to choose the perfect character name.
The name definitely has to feel right for me too, even if it does tick all the boxes. I don’t necessarily go through my list consciously; a lot is based on intuition.
Your list makes me realize how little thought I give to naming characters…
I almost wish I wasn’t so hung up on naming them. After all, in reality, people are given names for all sorts of arbitrary reasons and they don’t always fit their personality.