Naming A Book Baby

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Someone with a lot more wordsmith prowess than me wrote that immortal line. I love the words and sentiment, but I beg to differ with the Bard on this issue. Because I’m full of myself, like that. In all seriousness, having named two children and a number of characters, I just don’t know how someone can claim this to be the case.

I agonised over naming my first child to the point of obsession. My husband and I had a shortlist longlist of names we liked. We would arrange them in various combinations, sitting with those combinations for day, sometimes weeks, before then rejecting them. Sometimes we’d then double back on previously discarded names, giving them a second chance…before rejecting them.

A few weeks before my daughter’s birth we settled on the final combination, but vowed to wait to meet her before we decided for once and for all. What if her face didn’t fit her name? We gave ourselves a ‘get out of jail free’ card. With our second daughter we arrived at the combination much sooner, but still wanted to meet her before making the final decision. Naming people is hard. And important. And not something I take lightly.

Cut to a few years down the track. I’m writing Catching London, and again faced with the gravity of the task of naming my “babies.” Albeit this time, book babies, but still. Arlo’s name came quite early on in the piece. In fact, I had it in place before I wrote a word. London on the other hand, London proved more elusive. Much like naming my first-born, I sat with this name and that, trying them on for weeks at a time as I wrote. I’ve lost count of the number of names I then rejected before settling on London. Thank goodness for the find and replace feature!

I honestly can’t remember how London came to me in the end. I do remember that once I had it in place, it was like Prince Charming slipping the glass slipper onto Cinderella’s foot. It just felt right. Once I had it I knew it was ‘the one.’ It fit the image I had in my mind of London, and of Arlo’s interactions with her. London was a keeper, and huge weight off my mind.

Having gone through this process in a vacuum, I began to wonder how other authors approach this pivotal aspect of the novel writing process. Did they apply logic, science and reason? Or was it more a case of gut feeling and emotional connections? Did they crowd source or otherwise randomly pick names? I had no idea, but was genuinely curious to find out. So much so, that I decided to canvas my author buddies on social media and see what they said. You might be surprised at the results. Here are the top methods used by authors to name their characters…

  1. It just comes to me. Maybe I see or hear a name somewhere that I like. Could be in a magazine, or online, or even at my kids’ school.
  2. Google is my friend. Baby names sites hold the answer to all of my character naming problems.
  3. They “speak” to me, and tell me their names themselves.
  4. Name generator tools do the hard work, so I don’t have to.
  5. I use the names of people I know. P#ss me off, and you get to be the baddie!
  6. Celebrities always give their kids great names. I follow their lead.
  7. Crowd-sourcing is the only way to do anything these days. I ask for suggestions on social media
  8. I take standard names and mangle change the spelling.
  9. Let a picture do the talking. I’ll use an image to inspire my character, and create a name to fit their face.
  10. I literally make them up. Any word can be a name if I want it to. Antelope Table Jar, anyone?

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