Characters,  NaNoWriMo,  Work-In-Progress,  Writing World

Ode To Names

I haven’t written a horror story in a little while, but I’m going to try and tackle the beast during this year’s NaNoWriMo. If you’re doing NaNo and want an extra buddy, I’m “katci13”. ^_^

How long I’m in the preplanning process varies from story to story, but hands down, the longest part of any of this is picking names. I stockpile names. I have a long, long list of old, old names I collected in middle school and high school, and I have a much shorter list of names on my computer AND on my phone. (Though recently, and I am so not joking, that particular note has been constantly disappearing from my phone, and I am constantly having to go into my email backup to find it.) I rarely use more than a couple of these names though. I just about always end up on a names database or some other random names website somewhere looking for specific sounding names or just “the right” name. My sister, with her near-infinite sports knowledge, is a great resource for non-American names. The Russian last names for Petra’s story (still on hold, Lol!) is by far the most fun I’ve ever had. 🙂

Recycling, Reusing, and Making Them Up From Scratch
Sometimes I have stories fall apart in the naming process so getting this out of the way so the story can bake properly is super important to me.

I started off needing a couple of Spanish-sounding names for the first projected NaNo project. I inadvertently also got tangled up with a couple of French names and ended up with a nice Spanish/French hybrid name: Analena Reichard. (Though I admittedly made Reichard up, but it sounds French, am I right?) She hated the name I picked first: Mika, and so did I. It sounded good with the last name, but she temporarily ran away. She liked the name Eve, but that name is taken. I’m not ready to give up on that story completely, so it was a no go, though recycling names for permanently trunked stories is something I’ve done and remain willing to do. So, Analena aka Lena, it is. She doesn’t love it, but I can see her clearly and she’s staying put, so that’s her name. Sometimes in real life, people don’t always like their names. She seems to want something really exotic, but, sorry, chicka, that’s just not the name your parents gave ya.

I spent hours and hours coming up with all the names for that story. So, it’s an understatement to say that I was majorly bummed when I had to throw it back into the cooker. Not only because I have to wait on it, but because the story replacing it for NaNo? IT STILL NEEDED NAMES!! Luckily (and lazily) I had given up on this process halfway through the last time, so I only had half to go, two characters in particular. I either vehemently hated their name, or I was worried it would be grossly mispronounced. My MC actually didn’t need a new name. She was fine with it. But I wanted something more powerful, something that would stick out. Somehow I ended up with Jade. She’s shy, so the name scares her a little, but it fits her, I can see her, and she will talk to me, and that’s all that matters. 🙂 For some reason, it’s giving me Mortal Kombat game flashbacks…there’s probably a Jade in one of those versions. Ominous Overhead Voice says: Jade Wins…Flawless Victory ^_^

As usual I have no idea what I’m doing plot-wise, but when has that ever stopped me? insert maniacal laughter here

I just want to mention: I know what they say about having too many names that start with the same letter, but if they’re different genders, I figure it’s fine. Here’s why: I do this all the time (ha, ha). The only time someone ever got onto me about it though was when the two characters were brothers. One of them died early on and I didn’t think it was a big deal, still, confusion ensued. I think it had less to do with their names and more to do with the fact that they were both men and the scene in question was crowded in general. They had different syllables and completely different letters in them except for the first one. I changed the first letter on one and called it a day and there was still confusion. Meanwhile, both the MCs in that story (a girl & a guy) had two syllable R-names and they were both Hispanic. No confusion there. NONE.

I don’t have this going on in the new NaNo project, but I do in the other story, and I won’t be worrying about it when the time comes for the aforementioned reasons.

Next week, I’m bringing you my super exciting Halloween Post. If you like pretty guys, you’re going to want to see that! Lol!


  • Rei Michelle

    Names are super important to me, too. One of the first things I learn about a character is their name. For my NaNo, I have Emma and Colin. Colin starts to call her "Emmy" halfway through, which thoroughly annoys her.

  • Rei Michelle

    This reminds me of my first NaNo project. I decided to write about fictional characters in Tudor times, only to realize that in Tudor England, they used the same 10 names over and over again. Haven't used real people, but not being able to name my characters would be hard.

  • krystal jane

    Yeah, it's almost hard to keep some of those historical figures straight because all the kings had a sister or daughter named Mary or Elizabeth or both. King Henry VIII married two Annes and two Catherines, though the first one is spelled with a K. I have a retelling on my project list – built in names, lucky me! And then I didn't even want to use them. Lol! It would be hard for me to write about real people. I'd end up doing some crazy like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

  • T. Drecker

    Names are so hard. I first pick out a couple characteristics of the characters and then go through names which mean something like them (from the culture, time period, etc.) But usually I end up switching them again at least once. . .or twice. . . *sigh* Good luck!

  • krystal jane

    Thanks. :)Every so often I get lucky and get a name I like on the first try. In the story with the Russian last names, my MC came to me with a name! That whole story was a lot easier in general since all the names had to sound Russian, but I was lucky a few good names came up off the bat. I often have a page in composition book that's a mess because I keep changing the names.

  • Elise Fallson

    Picking names for me is fun though at times can be a struggle to find just the right one. I spend a lot of time on name databases too, but never thought about keeping a running list of my favs… Anyway, good luck with NaNo, it doesn't seem like i'm going to be able to participate this year…maybe next year. And I'm looking forward to your Halloween post! (:

  • Beverly Fox

    I don't stress too much about names and sometimes that gets me into trouble/ Like one year I found myself confusing characters- I would writer the name of my MC's best friend when I meant to write the name of his brother. Several thousand words later and there's no easy way to fix that!I think it's a good point to remember that whatever the name is it has to be true to your character.

  • krystal jane

    So true. I guess that's what takes me so long. I have all these people in my head and I want to keep them straight. I throw names at them until I can see their see their eyes light up….not in a creepy way. Lol! In a way that everyone is distinct from each other so I can't possibly get them confused.

  • Thea Landen (@TheaLanden)

    I keep saying I’m going to make a spreadsheet of names one day to refer to when naming characters. (Everything else in my life is organized by spreadsheet, so why not names?)

    I’m currently struggling with the whole “same first letter” thing while plotting an upcoming project. They’re two R names, quite different and on two different genders, but I can’t get rid of that voice in my head that keeps telling me R&R might be confusing/annoying. Grrr! (Oh, great, more Rs)

    • krystal jane

      Ooh, a spreadsheet! I could organize it by letter and keep it in my Dropbox where it won’t constantly disappear on me. ^_^ Hmm…

      Yeah, I totally think you’re good with the two R names. I have that voice in my head too. I step on it. 🙂 This is one of the benefits of feedback though. You can keep a back up name and if anyone is confused, you’ll have a suitable background. For some reason, I have a bunch of characters with middle names in my NaNo story. Well, it’s like 3, but usually I have zero. Don’t know what that’s about.

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