N is for Name


As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about names. Choosing the right name to suit a character is important.  There are lots of on-line sources, which discuss the origins and meanings of names but I tend to look at the people I’ve met in life and how their name reflects their personality. It is surprising how many people with the same name share similar traits.

When I was a child, I was the only Nicola in school but when I moved to Germany in 2002, there were three Nicola’s working in the same department at the school where I taught. This proved confusing so we decided to call ourselves, Nicola (me), Nikki and Nic. It was interesting that we all recognised our shared characteristics.
  • Ambitious
  •  Perfectionist
  •  Very organized
  •  Stubborn at times
  •  Caring of others
  •  Liked to laugh a lot
We didn’t always get along because we were so alike in our approach to our jobs and had the odd ding-dong but we understood each other very well and so the good times far outweighed the sticky moments.

I have very fond memories of our times together and even though we have all moved on to new things, we will always have a special connection – our name.

How do you choose names for your characters? 

Comments

  1. They really come with the character--a package. The only ones I have ever had trouble naming are ones I don't know really well. Interesting about how your friends and you shared the same name and the same characteristics.

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    1. A name really has to sit well with me before I use it. When I first starting writing, I just used any name that popped into my head but that doesn't work. Now I spend a lot of time considering names before putting pen to paper.

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  2. Good thing the three of you were willing to compromise names - that might have been confusing.
    Science fiction names are easy. The main characters just come to me, but once the story is done, I brainstorm a list of science fiction sounding, simple names and match them up to characters. Takes less than thirty minutes.

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    1. I hope my name selection speeds up to that pace :) I'd get far more writing done. Thanks for popping over Alex.

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  3. Great post! If I come across an interesting name I write it down.

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  4. I read a blog by another writer who discussed this very topic of naming her characters. I was surprised how much thought writers put into it and the research they do.
    Visiting from AtoZ
    Wendy
    Jollett Etc.

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    1. Some of us and others are able to come up with names more easily. Thank you for popping over, Wendy. Lovely to 'see' you. Have a relaxing weekend.

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  5. I try to make my names symbolic of my characters even if in reverse! Elu means full of grace in Apache (His blood brother says it means he is full of something else which is why his eyes are so brown!)

    Samuel McCord's name comes from the Hebrew name שְׁמוּאֵל (Shemu'el) which means "God has heard" -- and to many hurting souls, McCord's intervention says to them that God has heard their cries for help.

    His great "Moriarty" enemy, DayStar, has the name which is the English translation of the Latin name found in the Vulgate version of Isaiah: Lucifer. I do not say DayStar is Lucifer and Samuel believes he is not: for to the Texas Ranger, DayStar is not big enough to fills those monstrous shoes.

    McCord's love, Meilori, I made up from Mei meaning "MY" and Lori coming from laurel, the leafy crown given to victors in ancient Rome. An ironic name since she feels she has lost too much to ever be seen as a victor except to those who only see her apparent power.

    Names are fun for me to come up with. A great post. :-)

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    1. Thanks Roland. I really admire your thinking and how you spend time to give your characters an appropriate name. Thank you for sharing your approach. Great work!

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  6. Well for French names I search Google, and for English I try to come up with appropriate type names to suit personalities. It depends on their environment, or setting. I do put a lot of thought into it. Ambiguous names cause more trouble as the reader can't always tell if the character is male or female when they start reading unless a particular trait is identified to show which gender they are.

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    1. I agree with the ambiguous names. It is so important that the reader can relate to a character immediately.

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  7. I guess Nicola is a popular name in Germany :)

    It's weird. Sometimes I can think up a name the second I start typing. Other times I change it ten times before I find one that's suitable.

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  8. I am not a writer but I believe names would be important. If I think of some famous stars.....a debonair, sophisticated man should never be called Archibald Leech. Thankfully we know him as Cary Grant. Also a no nonsense, tall brave man as John Wayne would never go over by his real name...Marion Morrison. Since my name is quite different for people in North America, I love it and it means protection and will power. People have said that suits me well.

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    1. Birgit is a popular name here in Germany. Love the meaning of it. From your blog posts, it is obviously that your name suits you. Thank you for popping by Birgit. Always lovely to 'see' you.

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    2. It is and that's nice to see

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  9. That would be confusing. As a teacher, I've had classes where I've had three students with the same first name in my class. None of them were much alike so it was easy to tell them apart from the get-go.

    Susan Says

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    1. I can imagine that was confusing. You call out their name and all three look at you startled :)

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  10. It's not always easy to choose names and I try to make sure they're not too contrived. I was once told by an editor that it's a bad idea to give any main characters a name beginning in the same letter as another main character!
    Fran
    @FranClarkAuthor
    Writing Women’s Fiction

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    1. I agree. I think names need to be completely different so as not to confuse the reader.

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  11. Hello Nicola, I too look at people in my life and their names. I have noticed that whenever I meet a female with a certain name, they tend to be on the frosty side. I'll have to work that name into a story someday.

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    1. ooo can't wait to read about the frosty woman. I hope her name isn't Nicola :):)

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  12. Hi Nicola,
    I have a similar post on Names... but for a baby. :)
    I am impressed by how much time is spent into naming fictional characters. :)
    Seena
    #AtoZChallenge- N is for Naming the baby

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    1. Thanks for coming over, Seena. Have a lovely weekend.

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  13. I give it little thought - which is why so many of my story characters end up having the same names (you'd think there were only three male and female names ever invented). Megan was a particular favourite in 2013! Seriously though, for older names, I walk around my local churchyard with my notebook. I did the same in Bruges when I set one of my historical stories there.

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    1. That's a great way to gather names, Wendy. Thanks for popping by and sharing your thoughts. Always lovely to 'see' you.

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  14. Here to catch up fellow N-named Ninja Minion! :)

    My characters kind of name themselves I can't explain quite how. For the others that don't like to choose their own names, I find them going through social media, websites, books newspapers, dating sites :) much to choose from...

    Hope you are having a great Sunday!

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    1. Thank you for popping by Nilanjana. Some great ways to find names.

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  15. I'm not a writer, but it was hard to choose names for my children! Growing up I went to a catholic school where there were only 30 - 40 students in the class at most. There were 4 Janet's and 1 Janice in my class for eight years! Thanks for stopping by my post! Have a happy Sunday!

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    1. Thank you for sharing Janet. That's a lot of Janet's in your class.

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  16. I am sometimes influenced by someone I know of the same name, with similar characteristics, someone I like/dislike - funny how that can play a role in naming a character. Then there are books where we "meet" people and end up thinking - yes, Steve will always be like this, and Ravi will definitely be a certain way. It becomes difficult to imagine them different. I was the only Vidya in my class throughout school and college (not counting the Principal, whose name was Vidya too), but in my first job there was another Vidya who spelt her name Vidhya, so people differentiated us by saying Vidya with an h and shortening my name to Vidz.

    Very interesting post, Nicola.

    And please, do eat breakfast tomorrow! ♥

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    1. Thank you for popping by, Vidya. I promise to eat breakfast today :)

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  17. I stopped using my first name because there were too many Roberts hanging around. I was from a heavily Hispanic community, and Roberto was second only the Jesus. Not so many Macs around. :)

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    1. I've always wondered what the R stands for. Now I know :) Thanks for stopping by Mac.

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  18. Hi Nicola,
    You're a teacher in Germany? Do you work for DoDDS? I taught for 17 years in Wuerzburg and then 9 in Bitburg. As for character names, they usually just come to me. There are so many interesting names to chose from, but certain names seem to just go with certain personalities, as you've pointed out with your own name. In my WIP, I realized at the end of the first draft that I had too many names beginning with M, so Marta became Bea.
    @RhondaGilmour from
    Late Blooming Rose

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    1. I used to teach in an International English School in North Rhine Westfahlen. I stopped teaching full time in 2013 to concentrate on my writing. Thanks for stopping by, Rhonda.

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  19. When I write little stories I like to think of slightly off beat names. In last years A to Z of unknown Victorian Inventors I used names such as Stanley Stumbledore, Quinton Quantum-Quizzical and Rev Oscar Overlap Oppenheimer and so on through the Alphabet.

    Many thanks for calling at my blog on your travels and good luck with the rest of the A to Z, I hope it all goes well.

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    1. Fascinating names there, Rob. Thank you for sharing and for stopping by.

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  20. I don't really feel I have a character until they have a name, so I need that at an early stage. Often I pick almost at random - but I do keep a list of potential names for when I get stuck.

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    1. A list of names to fall back on is a great idea, Patsy.

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  21. Sometimes my character name themselves. Other times I have to figure it out. Usually I google names and something like ethnicity or a country to have a name that fits them.

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Patricia. Great to 'see' you.

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  22. I use a combination of ways to come up with name, but I was surprised to see that Vidya (above) and I share a similar plan. I'm also influenced by people I've known in my lifetime. I will often be reminded of a personality trait, good or bad from a person I knew or know and I will work that name into a character in my novel. Of course it won't be the exact same name or a name the person can recognize. If I'm looking for creole or cajun names, I check out names when visiting New Orleans. If I need a Jewish or Hebrew name I turn to my dad (or did before he died). I look at old family albums for French names. I look at baby names on the Internet, but the bottom line is that the name must fit the character and I've changed a character's name half way through a novel. I like to let the name sit with the character for a while to see if it fits their personality and many times it doesn't work out.

    Melissa Sugar @
    Melissa Sugar Writes

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    1. Great ways to choose names, Melissa. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your approach.

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  23. I tend to overthink when it comes to naming characters...maybe that's why I find it difficult.
    Writer In Transit

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  24. that's my weak area, thanks for visiting my blog

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  25. Really interesting to consider how to name characters in your book. I like most names of the main characters to be distinctive, not an ordinary name that is the most popular to name babies these days. I also try to pay attention to last names and ethnic background so that they make sense when paired together.

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