Thursday, July 9, 2009

Name Game

There's nothing quite like coming up with a cast of characters for a piece of fiction. In writing shorter fiction, I learned to trim names and even characters to make things easier to keep track of.

In the novel, some of this has gone out the window. In the novel, it's a complete investigation-- and a complex one-- that leads Bo to do what investigators do best. Talk to people. And many of these people need names.

I usually grab a first name and run with it. I try not to make my first names too similar, and also try to limit the number of character's whose names start with the same first letter. This could be a little overly cautious, but I know how lazy I can be as a reader.

The amount of Star Wars novels I consumed during my late high school years certainly shaped my naming practices. One of the things that perpetually drove me nuts were letter combination that I couldn't pronounce or even come up with a reasonable pronunciation. So a character ends up being thought of as something else. Like "That C-guy." I'm sure that's what the authors were going for... but I have some choice words for the authors on this matter.

So, now, coming up with surnames for characters, I still recall those tongue twisters I read. And I don't do it. In fact, I'm heading into territory of really easy names. I try to throw in some ethnic names, but only if they're easy on the tongue.

In fact, I cheat. I took one of the old phone books and brought it up to my office. And when I'm in need of a name, I flip open the phone book and scan the page. If I don't find a good name there, I flip to a different section and letter and try again. Then I steal the name. Bwahahaha!

I do try to avoid picking a name where there's only one of them in the County. And I don't put them in the same city-- so if Sleazeball Character is in Brighton, I would not select a surname listed with a Brighton address.

The names I pick don't mean anything. While I occasionally have some connotation with names, it's very light. I worry more about upsetting someone by writing them as a nasty character than I do about my own connotation. Besides, connotation is so malleable. In fact, for me the name Bo is now completely inseparable from the kick ass female character Bo Fexler. So much so, that I forget at times that Bo is actually a male name.