Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Name Game

This post is somewhat inspired by the lovely Brigid Kemmerer, who reached out to the Twitterverse last week looking for a surname for one of her characters. The names of my main characters are usually carefully selected. I go through the baby name books and look up the deeper meaning of names, choose monikers that complement each other for my love interests, things that are easy to pronouce, or that represent a character's heritage...but for all of the third tier characters who don't come into action all that much, I just need a name.

I'm working on something new that has a lot of these third tier characters. They are more like scenery, populating the world around my heroine. First names are easy, they can be pretty generic: Liz, Ann, Mark, Michael, etc. Last names are a little more difficult. I can't use Smith or Jones for every one.

One of my favorite resources is the obituaries. Yes, it's morbid, but it's a real name and I feel like the person will always live on a little bit in one of my books. I was also inspired to look through my old yearbooks. I can mix and match first and last names from my old schoolmates, and there's a fairly plentiful list. And so I can write off my celeb gossip mags, I sometimes use celebrity names, as long as they aren't too widely recognizable.

What about you? What are some of your name resources? Do you use friends, family members? Make them up? Please share.


tracyellen said...

I struggle with last names, too. As a reader, my pet peeve is a name that I can't pronounce, so I spend the entire novel stumbling over it in my head. I probably spend too much time thinking of names, but I think it's important.

I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but I use our county's online jail listings. I know. That's awful, but wow, there are some great names for antagonists! They also update it hourly, so there's always something new on there.

I guess I should have said that this is my first comment on your blog. Love it!


Rachel Menard said...

Thanks Tracy! Good idea on the jail lists. I will remember that the next time I have an especially wicked villian to name.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

Hey, thanks for the shoutout! :-) I've never thought of using the obits, but that's a great idea. And the jail listings idea is fantastic! I love the irony of it. (Even your name isn't private when you're in prison.)