Thursday, June 10, 2010

How do you decide on character names?

I'm so happy to announce that after only a couple of weeks in stores, Endless Summer has gone into its second printing! That means YOU bought a copy at the bookstores and told a friend about my book, and I appreciate you.

So of course I'm answering the question of the month with Endless Summer on my mind. Here's how I came up with the characters' names:

LORI: I really just used this name as a filler until I could go back and change it. I meant to do a search-and-replace in Word with a name I liked better. Unfortunately the cover was designed before I finished writing The Boys Next Door, and Lori's name was on it.

ADAM: I give my heroes names that I love but that don't really remind me of anybody: Adam, Nick, Drew, and currently, Hunter.

SEAN: He is named after Sean Penn. Remember in Truth or Dare, I think, when Madonna says Sean is the love of her life? You could really see in her face that she pined after him, and that's how Lori feels about my Sean.

CAMERON: He is named after the adorable but unfortunate best friend in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I'm showing my age here.

MCGILLICUDDY: Lori's older brother is named Bill, but everyone calls him by his ridiculously long last name. The power of naming is very strong. I get to do it as the author, because I'm inventing this world. Parents get to do it for their children. And if a kid gets to name his friends with nicknames that actually stick...well, that's a very powerful kid. I gave that power to Sean to show you how he glows with an aura of popularity, and therefore why Lori would fall for him, and why all of this would drive his little brother Adam completely insane with jealousy and outrage.

So...I thought it would be funny for Sean to call Bill by his excruciatingly long last name until it caught on. I literally went through the phone book and picked the longest name I could find that seemed to fit.

I'm really pleased with all my choices. Except for Lori. Too late now...


Janet said...

My main characters come to me already named - not sure how that works. And I tend not to change them.

Secondary ones, though, are a totally different story - their names can and usually do get changed. Sometimes I go through internet sites on naming your baby (contemporary), or check to see what names were popular at that time (contemporary and historical). And once I pick a name, there's a chance it could still change later on.

Too funny about 'Lori'.

Jennifer Echols said...

I haunt the baby naming sites too, and when I am feeling very old I buy a copy of Seventeen and see who is writing in. That's how I came up with Hayden in The Ex Games.

Micol Ostow said...

It makes me giggle to see a placeholder name transition to permanent. I've seen that happen with book titles, too!
My favorite baby-naming site is It allows you to search names by "vibe" rather than initial, which I find really helpful and creative. It's saved me on many character-titling occasions.

Debbie Rigaud said...

SO fun! And LOL about "Lori"-gate. I love the Madonna/Sean Penn inspiration. (Their old relationship still fascinates me.) Thanks for sharing!

@ Micol -- Cool name-searching tip. I'll be sure to check that out.

Debbie Rigaud said...

Oh, and congrats about ENDLESS SUMMER's second printing, Jenn! Yay!!