Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Changing Characters Names

You think about names, like you are expecting to name your own child. You troll through baby-name websites, look through baby name books, try to come up with weird and wonderful names, and suddenly something clicks. The name fits the character.
Sometimes, the whole character starts with a name. Oh so you are John and that's what you are like. That happens to me a lot.
What the hell do you do then when months later - when you are so used to thinking of John as John - that you realise that if you have John as a hero, you really shouldn't have Jane as your heroine? Or if you have a John, you shouldn't really have a Ron. You know what I mean. Following all those unwritten rules about making character names different.
This has happened to me a few times when either major characters have similar sounding names, or they all start with a same letter. And I always HATE changing them. Because usually by that time, I have come to think of them as people. And people (at least normal people) just don't change their names half-way through their life.
I do change them, because it will be hard enough getting published without giving your agent/publisher a reason to get confused with who is who. But still, it is annoying. And it always takes me a while to find that second perfect name that suits my characters' personality.
The way I deal with it is I decide who are the characters in question. If one of them is a lead and the second one is just some other non-major character, then no contest. The lead keeps his name. But usually (sod's law) I get two major characters with similar names. In that case, I try practicing calling them with different names as I come up with them. And whoever finds another name to suit their personality, gets a new name. Sooner or later, one of them does find a name that they like, so in the end things do work out.
How about you? How attached are you to your characters' names? How do you deal with changing them?


  1. It takes me forever to name them in the first place, and renaming them generally takes even longer. ;-)

    It's rare that I need to, but it does happen. I tend to stick with with the same number of syllables and a similar sound.

    The last one I had to change was down to it being to close in sound to the MC's.


  2. I usually have the name for at least one major character before I start writing. Last year's NaNo I had the heroine's name before I even had a plot. Her hero, however, went through about three name changes before I was satisfied.

    I love names and rarely give my main characters similar names. Not only is it confusing for the reader, it's confusing for me too!

    Sometimes the perfect name appears in a flash of inspiration, sometimes I have to really dig for it. But if the name's not perfect I'm not opposed to changing it until it is.

  3. I usually come up with a name either right at the beginning or close to it. Like you said, they just are who they are. But, like a book's title, once I'm set on it, I'm set. I've only had to change a name once and it still bugs me when I think about that story.:)

  4. I'm pretty careful about choosing character names. I do a whole week of choosing and deciding for a novel-length work. I don't get too attached unless I have to change. :)

  5. Let's put it this way ...

    My husband pointed out to me yesterday that the one thing I'd decided on for this year's NaNoWriMo -- a character's name -- not only *sounded* like the name of a branded prescription drug, it actually *was* one.

    I'm changing it. ;)


  6. I make a list in Excel with my characters names, and when a new character appears, I'll look at the list before going with a name. Still, I know that there may be changes later on.

  7. Adam/C R - your character naming process sounds much like mine.

    Lady Glam, I can't help but get attached to names. I have got a great thing for good names anyway.

    HD - don't you just hate it when that happens. I think we come across so many words that even the ones that seem unique, and seem to have come from our imagination, turn out from just regular world.

    Tara - I keep Excel spreadsheet too. :) But names usually just come to me, so by the time I get to the spreadsheet, it's usually too late.