Thursday, 3 July 2008

What's In A Name?

I don't know about you but I have a mental battle with myself when I have to choose names for my characters. There are certain names that pretty much tell you how old the person is. Take my name, for example, when someone calls out one of the following, 'Debs', 'Debbie' or 'Deborah' then at least five women in my office immediately turn round to answer. Although there have been times when none of us bother as we assume that they mean one of the other 'Debs' etc. I would think that all of us except one who is a bit younger, are the same age and if you don't know how old that is, then I'm not going to be the one to tell you.

For my characters though, I generally picture them and then imagine what he/she is called and stick to that name but sometimes the name I come up with isn't all that interesting. I also associate names with people that I know, which can be a little off-putting if the dashing hero in a book that I'm reading has the same name as someone particularly ghastly.

I have several baby name books, which are well thumbed and love looking up their meanings. My name means 'Bee' in Hebrew and Melissa is Greek and also means 'Bee'. The picture depicts the Chinese version of 'Deborah'. I wouldn't fancy having to write that every day.

I'm off to pack my bag for Chichester, RNA here I come. I hope you all have a relaxing weekend and I shall let you know how it went on my return.

17 comments:

Yvonne said...

I always find coming up with names for characters and companies really hard. My book is based in Ireland so I have a list of the most popular baby names in Ireland - and surnames too!

Debs said...

yvonne - there are some fabulous Irish names, I wish my parents had thought to give me a more unusual one.

Tam said...

Names are powerful tools. I choose mine with care (although have been known to be inspired by place names Kirk Smeaton being my current favourite).
Have fun at the conference!

KatW said...

Chinese calligraphy looks so delicate and beautiful. Even the ugliest of names must look good when written in Chinese!

Enjoy the weekend. Wish I could join you.

Kat :-)

Maddie Moon said...

Choosing names for characters is so hard. I always end up using the same names in my short stories.

Have a great time at Chichester and I'll look forward to hearing how it goes.

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

The thing I focus on with names is keeping them different enough from each other in the story so the reader doesn't get confused about who I'm talking about (unless, I want them confused, of course). There are a lot of random name generators on the web that help me come up with different names.

HelenMH said...

Have a fab time at RNA. Can't wait to hear about it!

Lane said...

Names are tricky aren't they? Fun to chose though!

Have a great time in Chichester Debs. Looking forward to hearing all about it!

Mickmouse said...

Names are so evocative as they are always associated with people from your past. Therefore the name Steven associates pain and rejection for me, but the name Andrew is happiness and joy. I chose my kids names because I liked them but have since found out theat one meaning of Connor is 'courageous warrior' (a six year old boy who is happy with that! And Holly in Persian means 'Star' which she is (and she knows it!). Love the chinese version of your name.

Carol and Chris said...

Names are funny things aren't they!! When I was little my parents lived in Glasgow and I went to Primary School there. There were two classes in my year each with 30 kids in them and not one other person was called Carol. We then moved to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere - there were 17 people in the whole school (Primary 1,2,3,4 in one room and 5,6,7 in the other) and the only other girl my age was called Carol. She was horrible and bullied me all through Primary School....I've now met quite a few cool people called Carol so don't mind my name as much as I used to.

Enjoy the conference

C x

DJ Kirkby said...

I am still fairly new to this writing business, fiction novel wise, so names just arrive attached to the charecters. Have fun tomorrow!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I use baby name books too, also Google for names of particular types/nationalities of people.

KAREN said...

I love choosing names and can get quite carried away! Chinese looks incredibly complicated doesn't it?

Hope you have a lovely weekend...looking forward to hearing all about it :o)

Annieye said...

A name usually pops in my head right at the start, but then I do a 'search' at work on the register of electors, find out there is someone locally with the same name and have to change it!

Have a great time at Chichester!

Debs said...

tam - kirk smeaton is a rather fabulous name. I'm always looking at credits on films and tv programmes too.

kat - I agree. I had a wonderful time and will post about it tomorrow.

maddie moon - names are so fascinating, I love it when I hear an unusual one that makes me picture a new character.

chad aaron sayban - I agree, I once stupidly called a character after his grandfather and had both in the book. I soon realized that I had to change one of them.

helenmh - thanks, it was great fun.

lane - I love names, especially unusual ones.

The conference was brilliant, as usual. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow when I've gathered myself a bit.

mickmouse - I agree. I recently started reading a book about a woman who still had feelings for her ex-husband called Nick and I just couldn't get into it.

carol - I can see why you would be put off the name if someone was so ghastly to you. I had a best friend when I was much younger called Carol and she was wonderful.

dj kirkby - I do find that names do conjure up an individual look or personality of a person to me.

zinnia cyclamen - I do too, it's such a useful tool to have.

karen - I love names too and can spend hours looking through them.

Thanks, the conference was great fun.

annieye - I haven't actually checked my names like that (yikes) I should actually think about doing so.

Chichester was great, thanks.

B said...

I now have my sister's degree programme full of lists of names to use as another resource for names :)

Not been round for a while, sorry, but getting more talkative again now :)

Debs said...

b - what a useful thing to have. I love looking at names and finding out their meanings.

Thanks for commenting.