Naming Characters

I love coming up with character names. Sometimes they just appear, from something you've read or heard or feel, based on how the story first comes to you. Sometimes they’re based on analogies to people in real life who you’ve drawn inspiration from but want to protect.
Last names/surnames are usually harder – sometimes for those, as well as for secondary characters, I may go searching. For instance, I needed a last name for Charles and Oliver in my short story He Ain’t Heavy. I wanted an English, Welsh or Scottish last name, and one that seemed rather rare and not too obvious. It’s hard to Google that sort of request, so instead I kept my eyes open among the books and so on that I was reading at the time. A little while later, I found just the name I was looking for (McKerrow) in the newsletter of the Osler Library.
Another, more recent example: I needed Roman names for a lot of the secondary characters in The Face of A Lion, so I Googled and Gutenberged authentic Roman texts (such as by Seneca or Caesar or Pliny) and chose names from them. Ditto for my main Celtic character.
Sometimes this kind of search results in very very serendipitous circumstances:
I chose the name Aulus for Theseus' father because I liked it, and the reference I first saw seemed innocuous enough (i.e. no bad history or personality to interfere with my character – which is why I wouldn't use the names Nero or Tiberius, for instance) – a general of the army under Claudius. Then I found out that he was the main commander of the forces that lead the invasion of Britain – which is exactly the role I had given him anyway!
Same thing with the Celt, Nectan. I liked the name, at random; it referred to some old king or chief of a tribe, and sounded kind of like nectar. Then, last night in fact, I was reading an A to Z book of Celtic references and came across this Celtic story, about Bran's year-long voyage to an enchanted island, and how when he returned, he found that hundreds of years had passed – a story perfectly analogous to that of the seven sleepers! And who was one of his companions on the voyage? Nectan!


Sarah said…
You're lucky! I'm searching the whole day for names but I just can't find one, which fits.

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