Monday, March 31, 2008

The Name Game

This week's Question from Kimber:

"You've written 50 some novels. That is a lot of names to keep straight. Do you reuse secondary character names (excluding Kings, etc)? How do you track what names have and haven't been used? Do you have a giant worksheet?"

And this is where I confess I don't make notes. I don't have a system. Bad author! Bad, bad author!

I simply didn't think that far ahead. Nor did it occur to me that eventually, finding names I liked that I hadn't already used would be a problem.

I have a binder with lists of names organized by country of origin that I made back in the days before the internet. I used a baby name book from the library and went through it, name by name. It was time-consuming, but I hadn't typed in a few years and thought it would help get me up to speed.

If I'd been thinking ahead, I would have crossed off names as I used them, especially the Welsh ones.

So what do I do? Well, I rely on my memory. I spend months writing about the characters, so the names of the main characters are fairly easy to remember. I don't worry too much about reusing secondary characters' names, unless the books are linked, although I try not to do it. I don't want readers thinking Frank from Book I is the same as Frank in Book II if he's not!

The trickiest names for me are medieval servants. I don't want fancy, I don't want too weird, and I want new ones if I can manage it.

It helps that I write in different time periods and different settings. I don't worry about reusing a name for a secondary character if the books are that different.

One thing's for sure: after I given characters their names and I've written about them for a few weeks, it becomes very, very difficult to change those names. By that point, they're too much a part of the characters.

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