Guest Chick: K.D. Richards

We are very excited to have author Kia Dennis, writing as K.D. Richards, as our guest today. Please join us in giving her a warm welcome! 


Character Names

What’s in a name? Well, a lot if you are looking for names for the character in your novel. Just as in real life names are important. There are several resources out there that will give you five steps, seven steps, twelve steps to finding the perfect name for your character. It may just be me, but I have yet to find any particular series of steps that works for finding the perfect character name every time. And since I prefer using fictional settings to real places in my novels, there is the added pressure of finding the perfect names not only for my characters but for the towns and cities in which they live. 

I know some writers who must know their characters’ names before they can begin writing. For them it’s part of the process of getting to know the character well enough to begin writing their story. I fall on the other end of the spectrum. I get to know my characters through the process of writing their stories. That means I often don’t know their names, or what I think of as their real names, when I sit down to write. That can be a bit of a hindrance, but I do my best not to get bogged down in naming the characters or places. I like to choose a celebrity name for each character, which in addition to taking the naming pressure off the first draft, can also make for some pretty funny situations. In my current work in progress Joe Biden and Bradley Cooper are about to throw down!

At some point in the writing process, I do have to give my characters names that will stick. Some obvious considerations go into that process – vary the first letters of each name, try to make them memorable, consider nationality and cultural influences – and there are a ton of other factors to consider including make the names reflective of the characters personality. Of course, easier said than done right?

When I think of writers who did a truly magnificent job with naming characters George Lucas and Star Wars is at the top of that list. Luke Skywalker a young man seeking finding adventure, ultimately becoming a Jedi master – literally walking across the sky. Hans Solo the rogue whose first concern is self and money at least at first, very man against the world. And of course, there is Darth (dark) Vader (vater is the German word for father). Really how could we have not seen that twist coming?

I don’t necessarily shoot for a George Lucas level mastery when choosing names for my characters but like most authors I do put a fair amount of thought and time into choosing them. I named my main character in Pursuit of the Truth Nadia first because I’ve always loved the name, but it also means ‘hope’ in several languages. No one is more hopeful than Nadia which is good because she has a lot to deal with. The male main character in my upcoming novel is named Gideon which means ‘great warrior’; he’s a war hero so I found it fitting.

For me the most important thing is not to get so bogged down in finding the perfect name that it impedes writing the story. A rose by any other name, right?

What fictional character names have resonated with you? If you are a writer, do you have a process from coming up with great character names?


K.D. Richards was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs just outside of Washington, D.C. A writer since a young age, after college K.D. earned a law degree and worked as an attorney and legal instructor for fifteen years but never stopped writing fiction. She currently splits her time between Toronto and Maryland with her husband and two sons. For more information, please visit kdrichardsbooks.com.

32 thoughts on “Guest Chick: K.D. Richards

  1. I was today years old when I learned “vader” was German for “father.”

    My character names generally just “come” to me. But then they often conflict and I have to search for a new name. The character doesn’t want a new name. It’s an interesting mental argument.

    At least for my historical series I get to comb through popular names from the past for inspiration. And a lot of the names in that series are ethnic, so I’ve had fun researching Irish, Polish, and German names.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Hi Liz,

      I know way more than I want to about Star Wars character names thanks to an old linguistic course in grad school. The professor was obsessed! But it has come in handy with regard to knowing the means/roots of words for my own character’s names.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Welcome, Kia! I’m like you in that I usually create the characters first before figuring out their names. And since I write mostly in one series, I have to check to make sure I haven’t over-used the name before. I tend to gravitate toward a few favorites, and it would be rather strange if half the people in town were named Joe.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. There’s a fine line between elegance and kitsch when choosing symbolic names, which is why I generally don’t do it. I do try to ensure that characters do not have names that sound too similar, or begin with the same letter. I’m not at all averse to changing a character’s name in the middle of the writing process–that’s what find/replace is for.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Tom,

      I change character names from draft to draft also, occasionally multiple times! As I get to know my characters better with each draft sometimes the name I thought was perfect just doesn’t fit anymore.

      KD

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Ooops! I’ve done that! Easiest way to get rid of those global changes is to close without saving. Of course, that only works if you haven’t done something else worth saving. As a tech writer, I learned to save after every change, so I would only lose the latest one.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love coming up with names for my characters. Once I have an idea of their personality, I’ll peruse baby name lists from around their birth year, read what the names mean, and say them aloud. But generally, certain names just “seem” right, and those are the ones I’ll go with. My Sally Solari protagonist got her name from the song, “Long Tall Sally,” and because Solari is a surname from Liguria, where her family hails from, and because I liked how it invoked “solo,” since she’s on her own a lot in solving the murders. (And Han’s not the only Solo around–remember Napoleon Solo from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?)

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Kia, and for bringing us such an interesting and fun post!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I use baby name lists from around the year of the character’s birth too. There’s something jarring about having a character with a name that doesn’t fit the time period in which he or she would have been born. Like an 80 year old Aiden would just be uncommon (don’t @ me 80 year old Aiden!).

      Thanks for having me, Leslie.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I soooooo remember Napoleon Solo. But the actor who played him, Robert Vaughn, also had a commanding name. And he wasn’t just another pretty face. He earned a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Southern California in 1970. Vaughn also won an Emmy for his portrayal of Frank Flaherty in Washington: Behind Closed Doors (ABC, 1977). Frank Flaherty–now that’s a name!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Some characters seem to show up in my head with a name tag on. Others are a struggle to name, like the victim in my last book who remained “DG” (aka Dead Guy) for the whole first draft!
    Great post, Kia! Thanks for hanging out today with the Chicks!

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Naming characters is just one of the things I struggled with the few times I’ve dipped my toe into actually writing. I am in awe when the names just roll off the page.

    I think my natural inclination to be indecisive comes into play here. Maybe.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Thanks for joining us today, Kia! I’m awful at writing names. I tend to use a lot of Find-and-Replace. (Wouldn’t it be funny if you missed a name in your ms and your celebrities stayed in there?)

    I’ve recently started keeping a list of names that I just like. This way I’ll always be inspired.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Leaving a celeb name in accidentally would be my nightmare! I’ve thought about not using them for just that reason. The trick is to use really famous people that will trigger the “what a minute!” thought. I can’t tell you how many of my female leads have begun their life on page as Beyonce. That’s a pretty hard name to gloss by when proofreading!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Kia, thank you so much for visiting us today! What a great post.

    I work pretty hard on character names but during the last copy edit, the editor asked me if two characters were related…I had given them the same last name…and no, they were not. Thank goodness for her eagle eye!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You’ll have to let us know if Biden or Cooper wins! 😉 My wip is currently holding names from my friends, but it’s a combination of names. Like, say if I’d chosen from the authors here, I’d piece together Becky Byron, etc. Actually, I like that name! LOL. Don’t worry ladies, I’m not going to steal your names. Very nice to meet you across the wires, Kia. I love learning about new to me authors. The only problem is my TBR pile is… uhh… large?!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Welcome, Kia, and what a great post!

    I love naming characters. Some are inspired by people I know (with a slight twist), others come from baby name lists and still others are names that seem to have a certain “vibe.” My favorites were named after my paternal grandparents, Zartar and Levon!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks so much for joining us at Chicks, Kia! My apologies that I am a bit late to the party, but it’s very nice to meet you. (We are Harlequin mystery sibs.) I tend to assign names to my characters that I think fit their personalities. That’s probably a mistake. But I guess there is no mistaking the differences between them, lol–at least in my own little mind. Like, Summer vs. Gladys. Whatever you authors out there do, though–don’t temporarily name a character Matt until you get to know him better. The search and replace function does NOT work well with Matt.

    Like

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