Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Name Game

Some people might say naming their baby is a difficult decision. Or even their car (raise your hand if you know people like this). But for writers, naming their book and characters can be just a difficult.


Lets start with titles. About 90% of the time I’m backwards with this. I FIRST come up with a title, then I figure out what the story will be about. This has worked great for me. It worked this way with GOSSIP FROM THE GIRLS ROOM, when inspiration struck and I came up with the title from back then called Bathroom Blog. For other books in this series, I thought about which titles sounded good, worked them into the storyline of the previous book, and again, RUMORS FROM THE BOYS ROOM was born , as other titles, which I won’t bore you with those right now.

But then just recently I came up with a couple of story ideas WITHOUT a title (gasp!). Really, I don’t know what’s happening to me. And I felt stuck. I wrote down the concepts and then I lost a few nights of sleep because it didn’t have a title. And we all know titles can very easily be changed by your editor, and even after that. But we all like to have working titles, something we can identify the story with. Imagine if we all went around saying “I’m working on story #15 today, but i'm thinking tomorrow I’ll finish revisions on story #4.” Nobody would have any idea what anyone was talking about it, and lets face it, we would be so bored we wouldn't even care. And I don’t know about you, but I need a good working title. I can’t work on a story if I have to keep calling it by a name that is awkward or that I really hate.

Sometimes, I just have to wait it out. If I think too hard, it never pans out. For instance, I grounded my son the other day and it flooded my head with all sorts of title ideas! Thanks, Chris! Here are a other ways that help my mental block, since I sometimes get stuck on one specific theme:

1.  Asking a writer friend or critique group. Usually they can come up with a new direction of ideas and that will give you a whole new perspective to look at.

2.  Pick one or two words from your story. Is it about Zombies? And Midgets? There’s your working title! Maybe it’s about a girl who runs away to join a family of ghosts. You can’t call it GHOST GIRL since that’s already a book, so what about RUNAWAY GHOST? We don’t know enough about the story yet to determine if she is a ghost or considered one, that’s why its called a “working title.”

3. And lastly, you can always resort to using your characters name as the title. Worked for Harry Potter and Judy Moody!

Character names. These are way more simple, IMO. When I think of my character, a name usually just comes right to me. Every once in awhile I might need a little help. And if that's the case, then tihs is what I usually do:

1.  Keep a list.  I always write down words that I hear or see that might make a good name for future stories. So when I get stuck I look at my list and see if any of those names will fit my characters personality. I particularly like uncommon type names (not every time) but most of the time. That way the character will be more unforgettable.

2.  Name them after what you know. I have characters named after streets, cities, words I’ve made up, and my favorite-nicknames I create based on their character traits.

3. BabyNames.com.  If I need more of usual name but not a totally common one, I will go to the baby name  website and look up names there. And I love using first names for last names as well. Oh, and the name should always roll of the tongue easily. If it’s a tongue twister to say it aloud, it will probably be the same when someone is reading it and they will just skim the name instead of really wanting to get to know the character.

So, that’s my thoughts! How do you come up with titles and character names?

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