Names and Nuance, or Why I Shouldn’t Name My Characters Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin

So that book thing. I’m writing it, I swear. I’ve done a fair bit of planning at this point, and the plot has an actual direction. Not a full-on ‘first X, then Y, the Z,’ direction, but more ‘walk that way until you see the big tree and then head toward the river and just walk until you get there.’ I even know how it ends, more or less (!). Which for me is good.

Apropos of nothing, I am also the kind of person who puts a bunch of ingredients in a pot and cooks it ‘until it’s done’.

I’ve figured out what most of the characters look like, and their general personalities. But they are missing something important.

Their names:

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Words have power. They let us travel out of the past and talk to the future. Names are especially powerful. When our characters are chloroformed and pinned to the board, names are the neatly typed labels underneath. We all know about published authors, and how they craft names that reflect the personality and destiny of their characters, so I’m not going to rehash that here…

What I’m saying is my characters need names!

My female lead has an entire real name: Tallulah Frances Pigeon, or Frankie. Awesome, quirky, resonant with who and what her character turns out to be.

My male lead, John Farutto, has a placeholder name.  A great number of my male characters start as Johns. Plus a last name vaguely reminiscent of a famous literary character. In this case, Frodo. It’s okay for now, but I don’t like the idea of having to go back over thousands of words worth of writing making sure I’ve excised all the placeholder names once the damn thing is written.

Yeah, I suck. But I’ve been through my baby name book a dozen times, and gone to naming websites and whaterever, but I can’t find him a name that fits.

I also need a name for the main antagonist, who is an albino fairy. And who lures humans to Undermount with her bewitching pulp fiction. Give me the benefit of the doubt on that one.

I’ve gotten to the point where I want to name them all Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin.

So, here’s where you come in: what strategies do you guys/gals use to name your characters?

I think I am seriously over-thinking this all…if this keeps up I still may name them Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin.

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