Today's tip was sent in by Dale S. Rogers who submitted her first tip back in March; #120 on finding overused words. I hope you enjoy her second tip on naming characters and take a moment to visit her blog! You can also find her on Twitter @DaleSRogers.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Names are important, as we all know. Some of us wish we could change ours (especially our middle names), while others are madly in love with theirs. Character names in fiction are important too. They give us that special something we need to identify personalities. Can you imagine Philias Fogg or Fagan going by any other moniker? I usually like finding names for my characters, but occasionally I hit a blank. What resources can we use to find the very best names to express what our characters are about without going overboard? Example: Mr. Goodguy.
An endless source would be the phone book, but I've recently realized some people don't have phone books because they use cell phones. The same person who revealed this to me likes to use Facebook, although it's more limited. We can buy books of names, but those are usually more contemporary, and of course, we need to use names which suit the time periods in which our stories are set.
Sometimes it's interesting to use names that have some kind of hidden meaning that's right for a certain character. For instance, for fourteen years we had a Siamese cat named Coco, mostly because of his dark brown points. When I looked up "Coco" in the dictionary, I learned it's from a Portuguese word meaning "bogeyman," which suited our cat perfectly, since for awhile he looked like he wore a mask.
And then there's a resource we haven't always had: Google. Just type in "Names," and you should be given the option of several nationalities, as well as Biblical names, and I even checked on space names not long ago. www.behindthename.com is a good site which separates masculine and feminine names and gives their definitions. Another website is meaning-of-names.com, which has each name's etymology as well as rankings, comments, ratings, and other statistics.
Lastly, none of the character names in a story should be similar, so the reader won't be confused, and it's a good idea to not have any of their first names start with the same letter. As you can see, there are several methods we can use for naming our characters. So whichever you choose, have fun!
~Dale S. Rogers