Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What's In A Name?

What's in a name? Lots, apparently. Names, I believe, have power even if it's subtle back of mind stuff. At least the power for a reader to remember them. Out of interest I keyed in my first name [which I have never liked by the way] into a name analysis website and came up with the following:

"The name of Noelene has given you an appreciation for many beautiful and refined aspects of life--music and art, literature, drama--and the outdoors, where you find much peace and relaxation, but it creates a far too sensitive nature."

True in many ways because I love music - country, easy listening, play the keyboard organ since learning piano as a child. And art - especially landscapes and aboriginal art. And the last part is spot on - I love the Australian bush, find it utterly necessary to the peaceful life I want to live here in the country and would never consider living in a city. And, yes, I admit to being very sensitive.

However, I digress.
The names we give our story people. What about them? How do we get them? I'm always looking at the name credits at the end of a television programme or movie [if they don't go too fast]. Of course there are telephone books, baby name sites, name generator sites. Whenever I drive along the A8 highway toward Ballarat, there is an unsealed road leading off that has the name Sweet Pea Paddock Road. Love it. How on earth did it acquire that name? So I guess as creative people, writers are always subconsciously looking out there for ideas all the time.

I find only a certain name will do for a particular character. Some possibilities just don't work for the image I have in my head and the person my protagonist is meant to be as I begin plotting a novel and learn more about him or her. As my characters become clearer in my mind, they lead the story and become real. They create their own background story and issues. They come alive in the early thinking and planning process. Which makes it easy in the writing especially when it comes to dialogue and keeping that person in character throughout. Without characters of course there is no scenario, no story.

Two rather famous story people

The heroine in my recently completed story, Outback Kingdom, the first in my new Outback trilogy, did not come alive until I realised she was an Irish redhead and gave her the name of Meghan. My hero is a true Aussie bloke of course and is called Dusty although his real name is Daniel. I often find my characters end up with nicknames. Meghan, for example, is called Meggie by all of her Irish friends and family which I didn't know until they started speaking to her.

So now it's on to my next set of characters, Sophie who has a half share in an outback sheep station in the South Australian Flinders Ranges and Charlie who is a geologist and comes onto her property for research. They're already well formed in my mind and they're personal stories are emerging.

I would love to hear about your favourite characters or the current ones in the book you are writing.


  1. When I'm thinking about a name for my character, I work out the year in which they were born and then google lists of boys and girls names for that year. That way my sixty year old wont be called Chelsea and my twenty year old Ivy.

  2. Have you noticed how lots of what I call old fashioned names are coming back into vogue? A friend has just called her son Alfie and another called her daughter Rose. When I was at school Susan was popular but you hardly hear of it now. I always cut out and keep each year's most popular names as a guideline.

  3. Oh yes indeed. The names of characters are so important. I've given someone a name which doesn't work out and had to change it. I also have problems with names of friends and have to avoid using them or they will think I'm writing about them. Search and replace is easy enough to use ... as long as you fill in the replace full word. It's amazing how many words contain names as part of them.

  4. I find a lot of inspiration from the names of my children's friends and the kids in their school classes. Being Scottish of course there are a lot of Douglas, Fraser,Hamish and Calums for boys, though Finn is my favourite! Like Margaret, I've noticed old fashioned girls names coming back, like Ruby and Leila. It's great fun thinking of character names and often if you get a really good name, the character's personality and looks often fill themselves in afterwards.

  5. I really battle with names Noelene. At least I am happy with the names for my present WIP. I chose Zara for the heroine because it's short, memorable and packs a sort of punch which I wanted for a feisty young woman. I remember a girl at my school names Scarlett which I thought was incredibly romantic and much nicer than my own name! I always wanted to be a Scarlett.