I confess. I hate naming characters.
I’ve working on one short story this week (Story #2, about superheroes) and looking at doing two others. The week started out trying to find names for Short Story #1 (a fantasy story).
The naming process involves looking at the setting and picking the names based on that. So a secondary world fantasy is going to have names of a certain origin, and a contemporary story will have modern names.
The INTP part of me has never understood writers who look for names based on meaning.
The reader me scratches her head. How would the reader know the importance of it? It’s not like I would see the name Mary and run to a baby book to look it up to see if I could figure out any hidden meaning that might lurk in the story.
But naming I must do, and even the muse concedes that they have to picked at some point…
Story #1 is a secondary world fantasy (which I optimistically thought I would write first, but muse had other ideas). I used to use a baby name book. The problem is when people see me reading the book.
“When are you expecting?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
My process has always been to scan through the names and write down a handful of that I like until something clicks.
Muse nearly always tries to head for the Ks. It really likes K names. So it looks at some of the other names and goes, “I don’t like that name.”
So somehow the result of this is that I start the story without the name. Muse is like “I don’t care,” so I wind up with XX for the main character–do you know how hard that it is to type?!
It won’t take very long before muse grudgingly realizes the character does need a name. It does have an effect on how the character develops (the cool, nerdy stuff muse likes).
But muse wants to spend almost no time on it.
We both agree that surfing baby name sites is really annoying. They usually have this tiny window where you scroll through the name while all these ads for baby products flash at me. An ad with a cute baby pops up over my name searching, asking me if I want to sign up for a newsletter.
I’ve been known to hop over to the Navy website and grab last names from the admiral’s list. It includes all the retirees, so it’s quite long and a diverse list. First name? If I’m at work and need a name, I open the newspaper and start looking through the writers. This is hit or miss, given that most of the writers are men, so I’m missing out on half my characters.
So muse pops a placeholder name in the story, intending to change it later.
Sometimes that happens.
Sometimes the doesn’t.
And sometimes the placeholder name annoys muse, so it changes the name to another placeholder. For the superhero story, I end up starting it in first person so I don’t have to deal with the name.
Except that I do. The reader me always finds it annoying when a writer does first person and never mentions the character’s name.
Muse sighs and plops a nickname in it.
But that gets all manner of questions, like why the character has it. And that’s not important to the story.
Muse sighs again and plops another name in. Adds a last name from the newspaper.
I’ll probably change it again before the end of the story.