I've been reading a lot of blogs lately about writing and it seems that many are having trouble naming their characters. This is a phenomena that I don't think I've ever really encountered and so I decided to look into this.
For me, writing begins with a character. In my mind I see them, I know their likes and dislikes, their speech patterns, their dress sense, and I build a history around them. I ask, why do they like that, or why do they speak that way, and create a past. Somewhere in this process, they are named and I write and speak about them as though they actually were somebody I had just met. Finally they gain a future and a goal and so the story idea begins to form. Everything is focused on the initial character, even if later they become only a small part of the final produce because other events within the story take dominance.
My particular attachment to my characters became quite apparent just yesterday. While my BF and I were out and about, shopping and going to the movies, we were discussing the terrible food we had just eaten and I remember my BF said "It's a good thing Lucinda isn't here, I can only imagine what she would do".
Now, for those who haven't read the previous post, Lucinda is a character in my latest draft, one which my BF was kind enough to do a proof read on and help me untangle some of the story lines. As well as that, my BF is the one who listens while the character slowly forms and I rattle off ideas about how she would respond in this situation or that situation. This is a character who, for the moment at least, is so real that we are discussing her as though she's a friend who just isn't available to shop right now.
What makes this situation particularly vivid, is that I could instantly see Lucinda striding up to the food counter and laying her fingers on the edge of it and smiling, a dangerous glint in her eyes while asking, in a deceptively calm voice for a refund. I can also perfectly visualise her then sighing, as her request is refused, and in a single instant liquefying the counter into a puddle on the tiled floor. Obviously Lucinda should not be let loose in most shopping centres and should remain well and truly within her own world, wreaking havoc.
This isn't the first time my friend and I have done this. While I was working on my first novel, "Death's Daughter", we would regularly discuss Calandra Delaine and some of her short comings. Each character is unique and distinct and they stick in our minds as we go about our business.
As to naming them, the names are perfectly obvious from the start. Calandra wouldn't be who she is without the name, and nor would Lucinda. The names just resonate with who the characters ought to be. I must admit, I do sometimes have trouble naming bit characters, and then I draw on a first names dictionary to find something, but for the most part the name is simply an extension of the idea of who that character is.
One thing I run into trouble with, is finding names I have no actual association with. I try to avoid names if I know a person with that name - mostly to avoid offending said person, even though the character would not be based on them, though also because that name already has distinct connotations within my mind. I like to start fresh with my characters, without any connections or bias.
While I do not have any trouble naming character, I cannot name places. I am terrible at it. I'm endeavoring to find some help as far as creating names for cities, etc. For those who have trouble with character names, the following link might help: Creating Characters
Wishing all the writers out there the best of luck with their characters. Meanwhile I may need to get the bracelet made "What Would Lucinda Do?" (Substitute your own character name).