Sunday, April 28, 2013

Naming Characters

When I choose names for the characters in my novels, I want to use names that suit the image I have of them in my mind. I’m not talking about physical characteristics, although they’re important too. I’m talking about personality traits, including the little idiosyncrasies that make each character a unique person. 

The process is interesting. Lots of times, I’ll use a name that I associate with someone I’ve known. That can be a positive or a negative thing. For example, when I chose the name for the main character in my Malone mystery series, I decided on “Ann” because the personality and qualities of that character reminded me of my Aunt Ann, a kind and gracious woman. On the other hand, when I decided to name Ann’s mother-in-law “Louise,” I did so because someone from my past had that name and, let’s just say, she was “difficult” to deal with. 

Sometimes, I want to use a name simply because I like it. I have a third cousin named “Marnie.” I liked the name the minute I heard it. Although I’ve known her mother all my life, I didn’t meet Marnie until a few years ago, long after I decided to use her name. In my series, Marnie is Ann’s older sister, an attorney who lives in South Carolina. Here’s an excerpt about her from Mixed Messages: “Marnie said that the ocean gave her something nothing else could: a sense of peace and serenity; that she felt closer to God there than anywhere else.” 

I often look up names in my “Name Your Baby” book to see if the meaning of the name accurately describes the character. I'm not sure what I'd do if the name didn’t “fit” but, fortunately, the names I chose for my series have worked out so far. Here are some of the names I used in Mixed Messages and Unfinished Business. (Check out the definitions for Ann, Louise and Marnie in particular.)
Ann – Graceful one or Gracious one

David – Beloved one or Friend

Marnie – From the sea

Olivia – Olive tree or olive branch; symbolic of peace

Lawrence - Laurel-crowned

Bernard (Bernie) – Bold as a bear

Louise – Famous warrior-maid; famous in battle

See what I mean? 

How do you decide on names for your characters?