Write On Wednesday
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Write on, Wednesday: Naming Your Characters

By Leslie Lindsay

A topic we love to discuss around my house is that of names.  It started even before we had children.  What names mean, what their connotations are, family names, you (ha) name it–we talked about it.  So, one would think that when it came time for me to write novels, the names would just pour out of me as if I were a walking-talking Beyond Jennifer and Jason.  Alas, it does not.  Product Details(image source, Amazon.com 9.19.12)

How difficult can it be to name your character?  Pick a name you like of the right gender and move on, right?  Not so fast.  When selecting the name of a charcter you have spent time, effort, and and hours crafting one must really be diligent on how they come about the name of a much-loved (or hated) character. 

I have a character I working with right now.  I call him Steve.  Where did this name come from?  Have I ever known any real-life Steves?  Well, kind of.  There was a boy who lived in my neighborhood growing up with this name.  But other than him, there wasn’t really any real-life inspiration.  Other than the fact that a girl in Nursing School got engaged to her boyfriend of several years.  His name?  Why, Steve of course! I remember telling her something like, “Steve.  That’s a good boyfriend name.”  I Don’t know…Yes, Steve is the boyfriend in my book. 

I am also working with Annie.  I wanted the character of Annie to be a mom–but also down-to-earth and smart.  She’s a former professional, so I thought ‘Anne’ worked well as a professional name.

Her counter-part is Bethany.  I don’t like Bethany.  And, quite frankly I don’t care for the name, either.  Beth for short, this character is plain and mousey. 

And then there is Joe.  Smart, sure.  Funny?  Not especially.  Serious, hardworking, devoted.  Yeah.  He’s your average-Joe. 

And then there are times that names will just come to you–as they have for me.  For example, I have this deep-seated need to write about someone named Melanie Dunbar.  In my mind’s eye, Melanie Dunbar is a free-lance, self-taught photographer with long blonde hair.  She has recently given up her job at the Chicago Tribune as an investigative reporteer in pursuit of a new career. 

Another character who keeps “coming” to me is Rebecca Hollinger.  I don’t yet know her story.  But, I hear her name whispered to me from time to time.  Write about me.  Write about me. 

A couple of my girlfriends suggested I look these names up on Google.  I promise myself I will.  I say, “Oh, the next time I feel stuck on my writing, I will do a little search-a-roo.” 

I did one today.

And guess what?  Melanie Dunbar is a free-lance photographer. 

How do you get your character’s names?  I’d love to hear!

Writer’s Workbook:


  1. Gina Marie says

    Great topic. My character’s names often just pop into my head without explanation. Perhaps we, as authors, are dipping into the universal consciousness when we name our characters. Or perhaps it’s just luck of the draw. 😉

    • Yep–that’s sort of how it works for me, too. Definitely something about the universal unconsciousness we all tend to have…

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