Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Name Game

How do you choose names?

Whether you need a name for a character in your novel, a horse, a new puppy, or even a new baby - names can leave people stumped.

Personally - I love choosing names.

When I used to sell horses with my dad, we'd always try to give the horse a great name, like Latigo or Dreamer, because it helped them sell.

When I raised donkeys, we got to use great names like Jasmine, Buttons, Peaches, Chester, and Grace.

But how about characters in the book you're working on? Do you use regular names - like Jake, or Sarah, or Annie? Or unusual names? - like Heron (from my book FINDING CHANCE) or Mandarin (love that name, from LIKE MANDARIN, a new YA novel by Kirsten Hubbard.)

I've used names from geography, and named characters after rivers, or deserts, or cities.

Here are some websites to get you started:

I've used this last one a lot. At the bottom, if you click on Top 1000 popular baby names, you can search by year and sex, which means whether your book is set in 1911 or 2011, you can find an appropriate name.

Also, if you think your book might be published in, maybe 3 years (2014) and will be for 10-year-olds, you can search popular baby names for the year 2004, and find appropriate names for classmates of that era. (Cool trick, huh?)

Or, you can go back in time, and just name your dog Homer (not Homer Simpson - way farther back than that, kids. *grin*)

How do you pick names?
Have any cool ones you care to share?


HelenL said...

I love choosing character names, too! Sometimes I use baby-naming sites, but sometimes I just use names I hear in the real world that pop out at me. I heard my neighbor mention the name Stevie for a girl, and I thought, "I've got to use that name!" And now Stevie is my main character in Flyaway.

Cinette said...

I have a ratty baby-name book from our baby naming days! I'll have to check out the site that 'dates' names.

Linda Benson said...

Helen - Stevie is a great name (and let's not forget Stevie Nicks) ;) Can't wait to read your book!

Cinette - it's very cool to see how names have changed over time, and to punch your own name into that site, and see when it was most popular. Fun!

Shelby Bach said...

Picking character names is one of my favorite parts of starting a new book!! is my go-to site, though. (It sorts by the name's meeting.) But I'm going to try out - I've been stumped for picking names for characters born early in the 20th Century!

Linda Benson said...

Thanks for the comment, Shelby. I think it's cool to look for the meaning of names, too. Have fun searching!