Sunday, July 17, 2011

Names: The Sequel

I spent a few hours with a friend on Saturday talking about names. She was trying to figure out some for her newest tale. She's been writing longer than I have and so her 'well' of names is getting shallower.

I love talking with other writers - as long as I don't procrastinate and leave my writing alone because of it.

She told me of a little trick she uses that sounds pretty darn smart. She has a baby book (well, she had one but lost it). She would yellow-highlight names that seemed to be primary characters. She would pink-highlight names that had the feel of 'secondary' characters. And so on and so on. I thought it was a quite brilliant strategy. Also, she'd mark ones she'd used already. She doesn't like to use the same name twice. Which I completely agree with.

We discussed nicknames, too. I hadn't thought about nicknames since my characters rarely have them. But she reminded me that nicknames can have a 'short shelf life' too and you can 'date' your work by using 'oldish' ones. Made perfect sense.

Talk about dating things - I was watching a movie set in 1930ish America. There was a stop sign in the movie. It was diamond-shaped. I almost fell off the couch. I had not thought that you could definitely 'date' your piece by having the wrong shape stop sign. 

So much research is needed. It blows my mind to think of all the little times that I could 'trip myself' with a wrong phrase, name, nickname, and lots of other things. Won't keep me from writing though.

I remember my favorite author once was chided because he really should have had his villain hanged for the offense he committed. But the author wasn't about to have the man die. So he wiggled his way out of it. In response, the author said, "I'm the writer. I can write whatever I want." He's right. He is an established and much-loved author. He can do almost anything.... but not quite. And he does know that. But he has greater freedom than I do.

Life is tentatively interesting.


  1. I know I have to be careful about my name choices, writing Regency. Diane Gaston pointed me to, which is a great dictionary. I type in the word and it gives me the definition and when it came in to use. I have had to change all kinds of great words because they're too late for my time period. I like the idea of having a name list. I may start a document for that.

  2. I live by - phrases are another funny thing - some are strictly US and some are UK and some are......

    I have a name document for each story but not a 'total' one.