Hello all! Welcome to this week's Texty Tuesday, and the next installment of my writing series, this one covering character creation. If you missed part one, you can check it out here.
Congratulations, it's a boy! Now what do you name him? Coming up with character names can be very tricky, and every author has his or her preferred method, as well as likes and dislikes. Today I'm going to talk about how I go about naming my characters and a few of the sites I use. You can find a few more here.
Here's a list of my MC's to date, their nicknames if they have them, and who they are at the beginning of their stories to start off, so you can get an idea of the types of names I tend to go for. Afterward, I'll explain a little about how I got there.
Stanley Hawk - Pinkerton Detective Remington Trueblood 'Remi' - Tea House proprietor Chester Trueblood 'Chess' - unemployed Bruce Shannon - Private Investigator Jace Scarrett - Ex-bank clerk/Bruce's assistant Harlan Mackay 'Harley' - Prohibition agent Nathan Reilly 'Nate' - Prohibition agent John Flynn - Police Detective Danny Brogan - Prohibition agent Chauncey Irving 'Chance' - Legionnaire in the French Foreign Legion Jacky Valentine - Commandant in the FFL Jonathan Wolfe 'Johnnie' - Legionnaire in the FFL Bobby Haven - Legionnaire in the FFL Alexander Reed - Legionnaire in the FFL Julius Knight - Cabaret performer Lawrence Reinhart 'Lawry' - Cabaret performer Terry Talbot - Cabaret Perfomer Edward Clarence - Executive and heir to the Clarence & Co. Dept. Store fortune Maxfield Clarence - Heir to the Regalis Hotel fortune Albert Harrison - Heir to the Harrison fortune Gabriel Chase - Owner of Midnight Radio Robert Bradley - Mail room Clerk George Fitzpatrick - Writer Noah Baxter - Professor
Things I take into consideration when naming my characters:
♥ The era I'm writing in.Sometimes it's easy to forget that the names we come across today, may not have been around decades ago. I don't start with the year my story is taking place, but the names that were popular the year my character was born. Example: Stanley Hawk appears in The Amethyst Cat Caper in 1934. He's 36 years old. Which means he would have been born in 1898. So I bring up my favorite trusty site of 1000 Most Popular Baby Names of the (insert year here), pick 1890s from the drop down menu, and go down the list. Stanley is #84.
♥ What kind of fella is my character. So why Stanley? He's a big, rough around the edges, kicking butt detective, shouldn't he have a big, tough guy name? No. Why? Because he wasn't born a big, tough detective. Stanley is a nice guy who loves his mom, went to Harvard for a period of time, loves Chinese food, bad duck jokes, and can pull a nickel out from behind your ear. Being a detective is a part of who he is, but it's not who he is. It doesn't define him. So I go down the list, with a mental image of him and listen to what my gut is telling me. If more than one name seems to fit, I write them down until I have my surname and then start eliminating.
♥ Common vs uncommon names. Since most of my stories take place in either the 1920s or 1930s, the fellas are going to have pretty common names. John, Bruce, Albert, Robert, etc. That allows me to give them uncommon surnames if I so choose. If they have an uncommon first name, then I'll try and give them a common surname. There are a few exceptions, such as Remington Trueblood. I went to Baby Names and through the advanced search, ran a filter that showed me only English boys' names. I started looking for the longest names that would fit a fellow who is the epitome of English high-society. Once Remington popped out, I then had to find him a nickname. Why? Because his father is a pretentious bastard who enjoys to lord his wealth and social standing over everyone, so he would have chosen a name for his son that would reflect that. Despite his upbringing, Remington would not see himself the way others see him. He's sweet, smart, and kind. He would prefer to be called by a nickname. Hence 'Remi'. It's short, sweet, and reflects his true personality. Remi uses his full name much like a shield, to keep people at a distance, but to those he cares about, he insists on being called Remi. This is a list of English boys' names I use quite often when I want a name based on it's meaning.
♥ First names as last names. I'm not a big fan of names I can't easily pronounce, but I am a fan of using first names as last names, which is what I did with my characters Robert Bradley, Noah Baxter, Edward Clarence, Maxfield Clarence, and Albert Harrison. I don't know, but I just like the way they sound. Though you do have to be careful of which names you choose.
♥ Ethnicity. Between 1850 and 1930, about 5 million Germans immigrated to the United States. Between 1820 and 1930, 3.5 million British and 4.5 million Irish entered America. Considering the years these fellas were born in, they would have either migrated with their families as children, or been born in America not long after their families had come over. Bruce Shannon for example, was born in New York City, but his parents were Irish immigrants. Shannon is a diminutive of Gaelic Ó Seanaigh which means "descendent of Seanach". The given name Seanach means "wise", and Bruce for all his grumpy ways, is indeed, wise. This is a fantastic site which allows you to look up surnames either by letter or ethnicity. Search For Ancestors.com is also a great site for surnames. You can look up by letter or by ethnicity.
♥ Inspiration from outside. Back to Stanley Hawk. How did I come up with Hawk? Well, I take my inspiration where I can get it. I was sitting at my desk, and I happened to look over at my DVD collection. My eyes fell on one of my favorite comedies with Bruce Willis:Hudson Hawk. Bruce Willis' character is called Eddie Hawkins and he's the world's most famous cat burglar. He's also referred to as 'the Hawk'. He's sarcastic, a wise guy, and adorable. I didn't think twice. I'm a movie addict, of course I get inspired by movies! So I had Stanley and then I had Hawk. It just fit. That's probably as close as I would get to using a name from a character in a movie, because let's face it, some movie characters are one of a kind, so if you go and name your action character John McClane, you may come across a few problems. Unless your character is somehow related or something. Anyway, I'm just saying be aware of association.
Sometimes I need a name to fit with the story. For example, Bruce is the kind of fella who finds nicknames for people who do something to annoy him. So when Jace ticks him off, the first thing he would do, is call him by a nickname, one that would express his displeasure in true Bruce fashion. So I had to first think of the nickname Bruce would call Jace that would really get under his skin. With Bruce, I figured he would call Jace some kind of girl's name because let's face it, Bruce shares a lot of noirish detective traits, which means he can be pretty oafish sometimes. I went through a list of surnames, trying to find one that could easily sound like a girl's name. I found the perfect one. Scarrett. Bruce's nickname to infuriate Jace? Scarlet.
♥ What name will he go by? It's important that you decide which name your character will go by in your story. Depending on who he is, people will either address him by his first name, or by his surname. I use Stanley Hawk's name in different ways. Hawk goes by the name of Hawk, because as he says, only his momma calls him Stanley. He regards his surname as a nickname, one that gives the right kind of image for his profession. Yes, Remi calls him Hawk, too, but when Remi is upset with him, hurt, or scared, he will always refer to Hawk as Stanley, because being called Stanley triggers an immediate reaction in Hawk, cutting through that tough guy facade right down to his core. It makes him feel vulnerable. Harlan and Nathan are the opposite. When they introduce themselves, they use their full names. Their nicknames are reserved for each other, which fits with their personalities because outside of each other, there are few people they trust.
Thanks so much for joining me for Part 2, hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even came away with a little something. Next week's Texty Tuesday is Part 3: Because I Love You. A look into our MC's love interest. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. I'm happy to help!
x Charlie x