Synchronicity and Names

I always struggle to name my characters if they don’t arrive with a name. It is like naming a child – you don’t name them just for the sound as it rolls of your tongue but what meaning you imbue their soul with. I have four ways to name a character if they don’t come with their own.

1. I name them after someone connected (think of the daughter Claire in Bondi, named after Claire Halliday who gave me the original idea for the story)

2. I do a bit of research and wait for a name to jump out at me (Calli from “Clutch” which then fed into Dianna and Sade)

3. A name just comes to me at the sink, in the shower, hanging out washing, driving etc. And I go, “well of course!”

4. I pick the first name I come across on the Sydney Morning Herald website (when I was a teenager I had pulled a section from the newspaper with the birth announcements to help me name characters.)

The sci-fi story Parasite I’ve been working on over the past few weeks has thrown up one of those naming conundrums. I had no idea of the names of anyone when I started writing, so I wrote without mentioning their names – using he and she. Last week when I wrote the first installment it didn’t seem to matter too much. Right at the end the male character threw in, “See you in the morning Dr Halligan” and voila, I had at least a surname.

Saturday when I was writing “Clutch” I was stuck for names and asked friends on FB if they would like to offer up some names. I didn’t end up using any of them because in the process of asking I came across some interesting names and went with them. But I looked through the list and thought “What an interesting bunch of names. Shall file those away for later use.”

This morning when I was at the sink I had a “moment” and knew my MC’s name was Thalia (since tweaked to the original Greek, Thaleia)When I looked back on the list of names from Saturday on Facebook – there she was. Bang in the middle. So I popped the name in and started writing. When I was doing a little research for the male character’s name tonight I discovered that Thaleia is the 8th of the 9 muses and she’s the patron of comedy and “rustic” poetry.

What the?

My MC loves poetry… but its 21st Pop Poetry (basically song lyrics from the previous century). She has a huge picture of August’s Sappho on her wall. I had no idea of the connection when I named her. Another connection – Thaleia has banished herself to what could romantically be called a “rustic” life of beating a pioneering path across uninhabited planets mapping their micro-biology prior to human settlement. Thaleia of mythology is know for her rustic connections – she’s a patron of shepherds and the like.

I love it when you have moments like that. Gives me tingles.

Thaleia’s personal assistant is named Alan (shying away from admitting this) after Alan Baxter when I went searching through Facebook for the first male name which popped up (I’m also reading his book at the moment!) Dr Hartcher is named after a journo I came across on the SMH page.

My MC’s love interest remains unnamed and was embarrassingly referred to as “XX” in the piece I posted up on the Writing Races forum… but oh, ooo ooo ooo… I think his name might be Xavier? Let’s see if he likes that…

Word count for tonight 1715 bringing the entire piece to just short of 3000 words. Think there are possibly two more scenes to write before I give it the once over, make parasites explore outwards in orgasmic climax and send it out into the wilds of beta reading. Any takers?

15 thoughts on “Synchronicity and Names

  1. I agree:

    “A name just comes to me at the sink, in the shower, hanging out washing, driving etc. And I go, “well of course!””

    Naming characters is definitely an interesting process. You’re right, sometimes the name just comes to you out of the blue, like the character knocks on your door and says, “Hey…. I’d like to be called THIS, okay?”


    • Cherie – I was thinking about the characters who come with names… and they always come bearing someone else’s name.

      In Bondi the daughter’s name is Alexandra Jane – which is the name of someone I used to be close friends with. Then there’s my serial, with my detective, named Dirk Hartog. Finally in a story which hasn’t quite made it out into the public domain… he is a reproductive scientist, and wait for it… his name is Marvin Gaye.

      It is as though… they arrive having stolen another’s name along the way.


  2. I have the same problem. I have a good friend who is a naming machine, so I usually consult her.

    A lot of my problem is that I tend to write sci-fi in the distant future, so I worry about naming trends, etc. Which is really silly. I just looked at one of the kids’ school annuals the other day, and people are really working names over these days. I couldn’t pronounce half of them, so I imagine in the future it could go either way: overly complex or extrememly basic.

    For my Eden Corporation stuff, I just go back to basics, and keep the names as simple as possible. I feel with a lot of sci-fi, when I am reading anyway, if the names are overly complicated and there are quite alot of them, I won’t be as likely to finish the read.

    Gret post, Jodi!


    • Tomara… do you share your naming machine?

      I know what you mean about getting the naming trend right. Having worked with kids for the last 20 years – you see names come and go in popularity – along with, as you point out, bizarre spelling of generally simply names.

      In my NaNo from 08 & 09 they colonist are collective living and are born, like ants or bees, in generations. And they are named according to where they fit in the generation progression… so my 2nd MC was Ka’Ru… which I simplified to Karu because as you point out, there is nothing more infuriating or off putting than names which are too hard to try and pronounce in your head.

      I’ve been enjoying going back and pulling out ancient Greek names for my sci-fi heroes and heroines. When I shot Thalia across Chris’s bough his immediate reaction was it sounded futuristic. At that point I had no idea it was ancient Greek!

      Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the discussion.


  3. Love this post, so true! I hate forcing names. I’d happily beta read but I’m a total newboe myself so might not be much help!


    • That’s OK Wolfmama… the wonderful thing about beta reading is we all have to start somewhere at dipping out toe in that pond. The other thing is we are all readers as well as writers and we instinctively know what we like and don’t like… that’s all beta reading is.

      And learning how to couch the words so they don’t come across in a way which can be misconstrued. I have a blog post I want to write about how to beta read. I guess I should shuffle it up the list of priorities.

      And on the subject of names… there is nothing worse that having the wrong name for a character. My MC in Mercurial (the first story in The Red Book Anthology) was originally called Maia, but based on the feedback I got about her as a character and realised how much conflicted emotion she produced in readers… and how much of it was loathing… I named her after a girl who stole my boyfriend when I was 18!

      There’s nothing like naming and then killing off a character to make you feel better about being diss-ed in the past.


  4. This is such a great topic. Sometimes I stress about it, wanting the name to be almost a character trait. Then other times they show up in my head and say things like: “Hi, I’m Cara and I’m your WriMo MC.”

    Sometimes seeing a name is enough for a spark of a story to form. I always sit through end credits of movies and TV shows to get good name ideas.

    I hope you keep me in mind for a beta read. You know me; always up for your tasty treats.


    • I sit through the end credits also… I wonder if it is a writer thing? I specially love it when they include nicknames as a middle name in ‘ ‘s. I’m yet to have a name spark a story though.

      Calling your MC for you AXP submission Levi was a stroke of genius… well for those of us who know our biblical tales. And I agree fullheartedly with the name becoming almost a character trait… or at the very least, a solid spring board for exploring their character traits.

      Thank you for what you’ve done already in keeping “Parasite” on my radar. I think is is timely to write a post about why you need good, honest friends and colleagues in this business.


    • Cut of the royalities… huh! It reminds me of an episode in the first season of The Muppets where Fozzie Bear brings in his manager (someone Beasley) to negotiate a better pay rate… Kermit agrees to an astronomical increase in the wage… given a hundred times more of nothing… is still nothing.

      I was going to tell you I’d named you in both the blog post and in the story… this is my first time back at the keyboard today. Goggle Alerts beat me to it. Must remember to only say *nice* things about you here.


  5. I really like the characters that come pre-packed with a name. My CW character is like that, well it turns out my character that is part of an older character that has been attempting to have this story told for some time.


  6. Do your ready-named characters come with bizaare names. As I was saying to Cherie above, mine seem to come having stolen a name along the way – the best one being Marvin Gaye! I must finish that story one day and post it up.


  7. ahhh Jodi, (these days you might be Jodhi, Jodie, ‘Xo dhee to name you a few…) this is why I love Riki so much and Erica is just too much hard work and too many syllables it seems (it gets worse – Erica Louise or Aarika Lou-wheeze? getting silly now I know).
    I like to watch the odd SBS foreign film for name ideas, they have some doozies….keep coming back to Halgrim Halgrimmson though…yumson!R.


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