I can’t name a character after any friends unless it’s intentional. Surely I can’t name a man after one of my ex-boyfriends! I have to avoid names of children related or close to me. Last names have to be plucked from imagination so they don’t associate with someone I know.
Sometimes when I choose a character’s name associated with someone I know certain behaviors start to control my character. My fictional character morphs into the person I know. There are times this is helpful. I once read authors create characters based on some extension of themselves. If I want to think completely out of the box, then I choose a character based off of someone I know. It doesn’t have to be someone I know well, just enough to create a human in my head.
Luckily for me, I am weird and I have a lot of equally weird friends. It took a long time to find a tribe as strange and odd as me, but over the years I have collected them and they have welcomed me in with open arms. This also gives me inspiration for my characters.
Example, my best friend April is lovely and odd, hilarious even when she doesn’t mean to be. She also has the strangest vocabulary of any woman I have ever met. Her one-liners and taglines are so classic, it was imperative she is in my Baltimore Zombies novel, which I am posting chapter by chapter online. I have named the character in the book after her so those knowing April will appreciate the “lady bits” and “butthole in a knot” and other lines I gather straight from the source. Her character is going to have a big role in the second half of the book, so stay tuned.
While writing Baltimore Zombies I have also embarked on Sammich, a novella I am co-writing with my dear friend Kimberly (Hunter) Holley. The title is for internal purposes, I promise. We are at the stage where we are developing plot, theme, and characters. Naming them has been crazy fun and really hard at the same time.
Our main character is Samantha and I wanted a unique last name. I remembered a boy we went to college with the nickname Pickles, and honestly, I cannot recall if this is his real last name or not. Using Google, I did a search to see if Pickles is a real last name. It is! So I threw the suggestion out and it stuck. Now I get to name the entire Pickles family and me, being me, I can’t help myself, I have to name Samantha’s father Richard Pickles.
He is a bit of a slug, useless, tired all the time, always working odd manual labor jobs. His mother, however, Valencia Pickles, is a woman of fine taste and despises her worthless son and his daughter whom he has dropped on her. I got the name Valencia from Slaughterhouse Five, which is a book I am currently reading. I picture her as a rude Mary Poppins who hits people with sticks and falls for every fad she hears in the hen house. She might buy a pot belly pig to walk around town, only to discard it once the awe has worn off.
Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of writing a story, even if there are challenges to it. Often times a name jumps out and I stick with it. Other times I can’t come up with one and I use a holder until I figure it out. Just rest assured, Richard Pickles has been born and he, along with the entire Pickles family, will have a noteworthy story in a couple of months.
Photo Credit by Burst