Coming up with the names for my characters is always an issue for me. It takes me ages and is often dependent on how I feel about any person with that name that I’ve met in the past. I’m always indecisive about the ones I choose for my characters and during a first draft they can change several times, especially as characters develop.
So this morning I went on a research trip and spent a pleasant hour in the churchyard, before it got too hot, photographing gravestones. It was for an idea I’ve had about names. I thought for this series I might add in a bit of local colour, hence my journey. Although I shall say at the outset none of my storylines are set in my village, nor are any of the characters based on real people, living or dead.
It didn’t go quite the way I thought though. I concentrated on the older gravestones to put plenty of distance by way of years between my stories and the dear departed and therefore ended up with a lot of names from another age. Lovely names but not exactly contemporary. Such as…
There are still plenty to choose from though and I can see a few making it into my stories. It will be interesting to see if anyone local notices. As my tales are a little darker this time I also want to be careful not to besmirch anyone’s family, however far in the past the name comes from.
There’s a saying here that you’re not considered a local until you have three generations in the churchyard, so descendants are still around and I enjoyed spotting the family names.
A wonderful lady in the village, always known to me as Mrs Pashler, once told me they had the whole front row, and sure enough there they were lined up along the top of the wall. In fact they had several rows.
The other thing I’ve done is start a list of the names I’m using, so I don’t end up with several starting with the same letter, very common, or that rhyme – I’ve already spotted a Freddie and Teddy… duh! Considering how many names there are out there it’s amazing how often I gravitate towards the same ones, time and again.
This list should also help me keep track of my characters over the several books in the series. My memory is notoriously shocking so I need all the help I can get.
I love character names, particularly those chosen by other authors that always seem to be much better than anything I come up with. Although it might just be that by the time I’ve finished a book mine feel stale while those in other stories are fresh and lovely. I particularly enjoy extravagant names, such as those dreamed up in the books by Carol Hedges or indeed the tales set around Hogwarts, but time and place come into those choices. If I were to choose something similar it would look completely out of place in my contemporary village setting.
Anyway now armed with many more names I shall probably go and change all the ones I already had, but hey ho, that’s par for the course.
Can you tell me any of your favourite character names from books you’ve read? Or, how do you come up with your names? And keep track of them? I’m keen to hear!