Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beach Musings: A Rose by any other name can always be changed…

          If you have a character named Rose and need to change it, it’s a simple as using the find and replace function in Word.  How do I know this?  Because I just changed the names of four characters in my latest WIP (that’s Work In Progress for those of you not fluent in writer-speak.)  Is a character’s name important?  You betcha! 

          I love the writerly life.  Well, most of the time.  But it’s a challenge for me to name characters.  Like most writers I know, I have in my writing toolbox a dog-eared copy of The Very Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World.  I use it find good first names for my characters.  Back in the old days I also had a copy of the White Pages on hand so I could thumb through and find the perfect last name to go with the first name.  When’s the last time you saw a copy of the White Pages?  Yeah, it’s been a while for me, too.  The online version is not the same because you can’t just skim it but have to give it a name to look for.  Sigh.  Technology is making my job more difficult.
          In my current WIP I have a couple of guys I refer to by name.  One was an ex-boyfriend named Scott.  Another is a potential love-interest named Sam, and he is a son of Sam Senior.  Then there’s Steve (the heroine’s dad) and the heroine herself, Skye.  That’s a lot of S names.  I must have really been in an S kind of mood.  Seriously, there are 25 other letters of the alphabet with which to begin a character’s name.  One of the first things they teach you in writer school is to have all your characters name’s start with a different first letter.  Readers tend to skim over names and will often associate a character with the first letter of the name, so too many S names gets confusing.

          What’s worse, when I realized my Blonds at the Beach series has a female protagonist named Sam, I figured that’s way too many Sams for one writer so I changed the WIP’s name to Scott, forgetting I already had a Scott (even if he only got one mention.)  Having two characters with the same name in any story is verboten! 

          I pulled out my trusty, dusty Baby Name book and flipped through the pages for names suitable for my characters.  So Sam is no longer Sam.  He is Nate.  But now I needed a good last name to go with it.  A Google search for LAST NAMES sent me to a LAST NAME generator.  It is designed specifically with a writer in mind (since most of us don’t get to pick our last names it’s not all that helpful to the general population.)  The site designer even thought far enough ahead to have the first name and last name show up together, so you could get a feel for how it looks on the page.  It’s really kind of cool.  Make that very cool.

So I put in the name Nate and hit the “Generate Last Names” button.  Nate Frisken popped up.  Not quite what I was looking for.  Hit the button again.  Nate Ku.  No.  Nate Vierra.  Skjaervo.  Sugrue.  Reid.  Heffner (possible). Leadbetter.  Bhavnani.  Munsterberg (no way, it makes me think of stinky cheese!)  Mormorstein. Coffey.  BINGO!  Nate Coffey.  The perfect name for the guy in my book.  That was fun.

If you want to try it out yourself, see what last name goes well with your first, here is the link:

For all you expecting parent’s out there, this took works backwards too.  You can put in a last name and it will find a first name to go with it.  Now why didn’t I think of this?  I coulda been a millionaire by now….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great tip. Watch out, though: I decided to change a character's name from Bob to Hector, and later read in the manuscript about a female character who apparently wore a "chin-length Hector." LOL!