The Name Game

I have a friend who has a terrific time coming up with names, but the names? Quite frankly, my dear… dry as a corn husk. I have another friend who dreads it, but her names roll off the end of the tongue like extra cherries at the bottom of your milkshake. They’re juicy, fit the character perfectly.

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about my obsession with cemeteries. A friend of mine works for Dachshund Dream Rescue in Atlanta & needed fresh names. Because of my crazy obsession and name banking compulsion, I sent her 200  names like Acel, Cobb, Mettie, Euphemia T. Proudfoot, Zodie, Moody, and Gillam. That was just the name bank that was on my phone.

That time of year is creeping up again, when it’s not too hot, not too cold.  I highly suggest pulling off the side of the road at an old church.  Jot down your favorite names. Add them to your name bank. You never know when you need a Mettie with a wandering eye or a Cobb who lost his foot in a war. Moody did not sell Bibles, though. I promise you. But Zodie read tea leaves in her kitchen for $5 a pop.

Another route ( if you’re spooked by cemeteries) is Ancestry.com. This summer, I discovered that I have an ancestor named Pleasant Melvin Alexander. I am so not kidding. If Ancestry.com is pricey for you, go in with a cousin and you can each explore different ends of the family under the same password.

Another way to do names is to identify the thing that most describes/embodies your character. Here are some easy examples. For a cheat or a weasel,  “Wesley”. If you have someone who seems dreamy and lives for escapism, feel free to use “Misty”. For a liar, I’ve used “Lila” and for someone who offers forgiveness, “Joshua.”

For secondary characters, sometimes nicknames-as-names work best to remind the reader of that character’s role in the story. Say the Dad is enthusiastic and older and fast-talking, instead of calling him “Dad”, call him “Pop”. A sweet aunt can be “Aunt Sugar”, especially in the Southern US. For an aunt who cleaned until her fingers cracked, I have used “Aunt Blanche”.

There are a gazillion ways to go about this, I’d be interested in hearing yours!

4 Comments

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  1. Your name bank is a great idea! And I can attest to hours of fun, tromping through old cemeteries with you, collecting those names and the stories that can be brewed up from them. You’re suggestions here and terrific — practical and creative. Thanks for the tips! I’ll be sharing this!

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