Mae Clair, Author: The Naming of Names

I’m starting to feel the tingle of excitement that comes whenever I wind down a project and begin a new one. I have about 20 to 30K yet to go in order to finish THE MYSTERY OF ECLIPSE LAKE and then I can move into final polishing mode for submission. At the same time, I’m eying up two new projects while I continue to work on the sequel to WEATHERING ROCK.

The new projects involve a twist on the Mothman– a creature from urban legend that haunted the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the late 1960s–and a novella for an anthology I’m working on with a few friends.  I have vague ideas for both at this point, but nothing concrete. The characters have begun to take shadowy shape in my mind, including how their lives will intertwine in their respective stories. Normally, when I start a new project, creating characters is my favorite part, especially when it comes to choosing names.

bigstock-Portrait-of-a-young-fair-haire-12589124The novella has been  easy. The hero’s name is Daniel Jordan and the heroine, Rylie St. James. As soon as I came up with the names, I knew they fit the characters dancing around in my head.

The Mothman story, however, is proving difficult. My hero, Caden Flynn (Cade for short), came to life easily, but my heroine is a blur.  The names I’ve come up with are either too lofty for the type of story I want to tell or too basic. If you’re like me you feel a ‘click’ when the character fits the name, and so far that click hasn’t happened.

I’ve looked online, checked some character name lists generated from a few apps I have on my iPad Mini, and poked through a handwritten notebook I keep. I even have a ‘naming dice’ app on the iPad, but still nothing.

I think part of the problem is I haven’t decided on ‘her’ yet, so it’s hard to dream up a name. I know what drives Daniel and Rylie in the novella, and I know what motivates Caden in the Mothman story, but my elusive ‘she’ refuses to settle into a niche.  Her backstory keeps changing, the edges blurry like a watercolor painting under glass. I lob names at her and she dances away, stubbornly insisting none suit. I have to trust she knows better than I do, as I don’t have a clear vision of her. It’s as if she’s partially hidden, allowing only glimpses of herself to peek through. So, for the time being, I am tangled up in the naming of names.

I suppose it’s a good place to be, even if it is giving me a headache. A new project, no matter how difficult to get off the ground, is always cause for celebration.

What are you working on at present and how difficult do you find it to name your characters? I’m curious if everyone goes through the same melodrama as I do with my characters.

19 thoughts on “Mae Clair, Author: The Naming of Names

  1. I’m still working on my parallel universe love story, and have come to a point where three new men have decided to move in and offer their services as possible sequel material. One is not a nice man, one is weak ATM but will show some strength later, and one is incarcerated. 😛 I was lucky in that all three of their names came easily to me–in order, they are: Sergeant Michael O’Meara (who’s not sure about his first name, though), Regulator Thomas Anderson, and David Lundquist, an Outsider. O’Meara’s first name is the same as my hubby’s co-manager, so he thinks it may be awkward for me to write any love scenes with him in future, but the name does seem to flow nicely. Anderson and Lundquist are actually family names of mine. Their girls aren’t with them yet, but they may be in our world or a different alternate world. First things first–finish QK! **scurries off to do some work so she can write later** 😀

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    • Very interesting. It sounds like you have a handle on the guys for the most part. How nice of them to just move in and settle down 🙂 I always have a problem with using names of people I know, first or last. I should get over that. Occasionally, I might do use a name with a minor character, but I just can’t seem to do it with a lead character. Like I said….I need to get over that!

      I do like the sound of all three. I have a feeling they might get impatient and nudge you while you’re working on Quantam Kiss!

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    • The ones I like are too exotic….Evening, Haven, Sage, or too ordinary….Janet, Jane. I also thought about Rebecca, but she doesn’t ‘feel’ like a Rebecca. Right now I’m still toying with ideas but I agree with you that I love naming characters. Hopefully, she’ll tell me what hers is soon!

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      • I love the name Haven. You could put up a character profile of her on your blog and ask for suggestions – that would be really good fun.

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      • That’s a great idea, Emma. I might just give that a try when I get an open spot on my blog (if I don’t come up with a name). I just thought of two new ones…Rune and Hollande, although I’m worried the first is too unusual for the character. I like the idea of sharing a character profile and seeing how others view her. Thanks for the great suggestion!

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      • Thanks for the suggestions, Lynne. I’m alway sopen to them. I love the name Rachel but have a niece with that name. Jacklyn is a possibility. Thanks! 🙂

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  2. Perhaps her name is Sky, an endless vista we can see but still hides the universe beyond. I love the premise of this story, Mae. Wonderful.

    For names I kept the four baby naming books I bought when I had my kiddies. There’re 10,000 names in each of the four books. If I can’t find a name, that’s where I jump to, plus they include where the name originates and the meaning. That’s incredibly helpful for me.

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    • Sky is a pretty name. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll run it by her and see how it fits 🙂

      I have some really old baby naming books too and a thick hardcover I bought from Writer’s Digest Book Club many moons ago that is called a “Character Naming Sourcebook.” It includes the name origins and divides them up by nationality. That’s actually one source I haven’t paged through yet and need to. Thanks for the reminder, Joanne!

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  3. I have the baby name book, too. And there’s a great webisite, Behind the name.com. I love to know the meaning and origin if the name and that helps me find the one to fit the character I’m thinking of. But if don’t have the character down yet, then I struggle. Sometime the name and character come together at the same. I can see a clearer picture of the character when I find just the right name.
    Hang in there, Mae. I know you’ll find it.

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    • Thanks for the website, Stanalei. I’ve just bookmarked it and am going to poke around. I love the category options!

      I agree about having a clearer picture of the character once you establish a name. It’s almost as if the character grows into it. Thanks for the vote of confidence that I’ll work it out. At least now, I have some new resources to explore! 🙂

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  4. I suppose I’m different than most writers, except for my mains I don’t worry about names. I picked a bunch from people I know and old school mates. then the character becomes the name.

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    • An interesting approach, Sue. I admit I don’t get too hung up on minor characters but the main characters, and even the secondary ones, drive me nuts in finding just the right name. Thanks for sharing! I love hearing all the different ideas and how writers approach naming their characters 🙂

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  5. Yes, I know what you mean about that “click”, when the right name appears. I’m waiting on that for one of my heroines right now. And until that happens, the characteristics are a bit fuzzy. Or even worse, the heroine isn’t the right fit for the hero. LOL I’ve had to change things once or twice when I realized I hadn’t done a good job of matchmaking, and it was all because of the wrong name!

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    • I’ve now got my heroine’s name down to two choices. Hopefully, I’ll get it right! I once remember creating a villain and giving him a name I liked. By the middle of my novel, he had turned into a redeemable good guy all because of that name. Another time I had a secondary character take over a lead romantic role but I’d given her a name I wasn’t overly fond of. At that point I was stuck with it. You are so right about how names determine our characters and vice versa!.

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  6. I agonize over character names! Are they simple enough without being overdone by lots of authors? If the books goes “audiobook,” are they understandable when spoken, without sounding like other words? Are they too cutesy?

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    • Hi, Java Davis! Thanks for visiting my blog and checking out my post. Good points about character names. I sometimes struggle with ones I have a hard time pronouncing, which can distract me from the story. And I hadn’t considered the audiobook angle. That puts a whole new spin on them!!

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