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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Naming Names

Ten sources of ideas for characters’ names:

1.  Former teachers.
Me and Mrs. Delaney, my 7th-grade English teacher. I named a whole clan after her.


2.  Other authors.
Yesterday at the library I saw a book by somebody named Jonathan Gash, and appropriated his surname as soon as I’d sat down at my laptop. I am also determined to name some future heroine Nova.

P10300773.  Grave markers.
I go name-shopping every time I set foot in a cemetery. Can’t help it. This one’s from the pioneer graveyard in Munnar. (‘Aged 32 ½.’ I’ve never seen someone’s age given that precisely on a tombstone.)

4.  Names you wish your parents had given you instead.
Not that middle school would have been any easier for me with a name like Evelyn Harbinger.

5.  Classmates, friends, friends of friends, boyfriends…ex-boyfriends.
I’ll name him Frank and then I’ll KILL HIM OFF!  BWAHAHAHAHA!’

6. Characters in other books.
This seems like a fair strategy so long as your character isn’t too much like the one in said book. E.g., Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth (a name I used for one of the members of the Seventh Order of St. Agatha in Mary Modern).

7. Luminaries, alive or dead.
Henry What’s-his-name…Henry Smith…Henry Jones? Henry Dryden! Done and done.

8.  Graduation programs.
Something to do while the ceremony drags on. (No offense, Snookie.)


And ‘Virtue’ reminds me:

9.  Your 19th-century New England farm girl alter-ego.
Mine is Devotion Wicksticker. Someday it’s going in a book.

10. Mythological characters.
Like the Morrigan.

If you have other sources you like to draw from I’d love to hear them!

4 Comments to Naming Names

  1. June 21, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “Not that middle school would have been any easier for me with a name like Evelyn Harbinger.” BWAH HA HA.
    Awesome list!

  2. June 21, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I’m so honored! And I love this post (seeking a name for a boy in my book as we speak). Your suggestions may just help me find it…

  3. Kathleen's Gravatar Kathleen
    June 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Love the gravestone idea! I also like the “what would my parents have named me if I was the opposite sex” idea – my brother Tim would have been Bridget.
    True story – when my sister and I found out that the baby would be Bridget if female, we immediately switched over to praying for a boy. (I actually like the name Bridget, but Bridget Sweeney sounds like the central casting version of a cleaning lady in a 50’s movie)

  4. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    June 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Hahahahaha I’m glad you were putting the time of my graduation to good use. Lord knows the rest of us were trying to find ways to occupy ourselves 😉

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.