Names of characters -- how to pick 'em, when to change 'em (A-Z blog)

Naming my characters is one of the more difficult parts of the writing process. Some characters just walk up to me and introduce themselves. Arianna from Arianna's Honor and Arianna's Destiny introduced herself before the novel even started. "I'm Arianna Collins. You can call me Ari -- those closest to me do." The prince she was supposed to rescue changed his name 4 times throughout the first novel before he settled on Nicholas...he was a bit of spoiled piece of royalty at the beginning of things. It's really nice when the characters introduce themselves during roll call.

When I have to pick the name for them, I grab my well-used Baby name book and I start the process. (There is also an app for that called "Name Dice" which is as fabulous as it is distracting because names will roll that don't work for the project I am looking for, but would work perfectly for another project).

Picking a name under the best circumstances is difficult. You want the name to fit their personality, which is some times formed from experience, which is not always fair. "Oh I can't name my character Billy because there was that Billy in 2nd grade who stole my Jello." So it's hard to separate the name from your memories, so names of ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, makes it tough. (the ones I can't get past are completely scratched out in the baby name book) Add to that 19 years as a teacher and I'm amazed I can name any characters at all, but there are perfect names for characters.

It is okay to not know in the first draft -- just make sure you figure it out before you publish.

I hesitate EVERY time I write "Madison" in Driven West. (This was my NaNoWriMo novel for 2014). I am writing along and I get to my heroine's name and I hesitate EVERY sing time. I know this is not her name -- but her real name is a mystery for now. So I force myself to write Madison for now and I grow more and more thankful for the find/replace function in Microsoft Word.

Names are tricky, but when it's the right name -- it's amazing. You'll get there. Patience pays off in the end.