Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How Do YOU Name Your Characters?

--and how many names did they have? Did you change them as you were writing, or are you still searching for the perfect name? How do you choose them?

SAY THE WORD: Shawna was originally Jena Gallagher. Then I wanted a female derivative of a male name so she could be named after her father. I changed it to Erica (and made her father an Eric). She was Erica Gallagher for a couple hundred pages before I changed it to Shawna and turned Dr. Eric Gallagher into a John.

Susan was an Olivia, and Devon was something else, too, but I forgot already (Pam/Holly/Char: do you remember?)

LeeLee was always LeeLee, which is my niece's nickname. I took her last name from Jane Velez Mitchell. Her real name, Ophelia, is the name of friend's mother. I also had an Ophelia in Before/After which I eventually cut out entirely. Guess I missed her.

Penny was always Penny, though I had to hit a baby name book to come up with her given name, Sonia. Sorenson was a classmate from high school. Fran was always Fran, and I took Goodman from one of my favoite childhood books. I had to ask for suggestions from a friend to come up with Nabil.

Shawna's father's girlfriend, Julie, had about a dozen names (she started out as a Mary) till I found one that fit.

Arye and Schmule had those names from the beginning (although Arye was originally the little one--till I decided I couldn't picture Shawna sucking face with a "Schmule" ha-ha). I knocked the final H off "Aryeh" because my crit group harassed me.

I have a friend named Charles. Hence the dog. :)

There's a Dr. Felker, named after a wonderful doctor I used to know. He died in an accident, so I immortalized him.

Jonas Dunn is a name very close to the name of my first crush.

BEFORE/AFTER: Martha was a Martha from the start; I was following the Michael Skakel/Martha Moxley trial when I first started writing it which shows you how frigging long it took me. I wanted a plain, old-fashioned, not-too-popular name. Agnes, Blanche, and Beulah were OUT.

Chardonnay was always Chardonnay (it's one of those names that just "come to you') but her best friend Shavonne started out as Sharnelle. Then I decided Char(donnay) and Shar(nelle) were too close, so I changed it to Shavonne (I was watching Ryan's Hope reruns at the time and changed the spelling from "Siobhan") because I couldn't have a Shavonne and a Yvonne, which was Aunt Gloria's original name.

Jerome was always Jerome. His cousin Anthony started out as Andre, but I changed it when I decided Bubby's real name should be De'Andre (Bubby told me this himself, so who was I to argue?).

I took the names Mario and Zelda from my kids' favorite video games.

I named Wayne after a total CREEP I met in real life. In fact, he was a composite of several creeps I knew.

Nikki and Rachel Brinkman started out as Melissa and Hanna, and Richard was a George, but Claudia and Danny named themselves, too.

Professor Moscowitz was named after someone I once knew. Well, the last name, anyway. I never knew a "Leopold."

(I use names of real people, too, e.g. Danielle WALSH and Jerome LINDSEY, named after coworkers; GALLAGHER is a relative's maiden name; Mr. TWOHIG, after a teacher--he was originally a Cruickshank (after a patient) but my agent wondered if that was a reference to Harry Potter; the answer was "no" b/c I never read HP or saw the films, but I changed it anyway. Likewise, Schmule's headmaster Mr. DICKERHOOF was named after a patient ( I swear).

I'm sure there are others, but this is off the top of my head.

OK, your turn. Play along! Give examples!

Next: Killing off characters

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