I’m not positive, but I think every writer picks character names a certain way, using the same method time after time. Perhaps they imagine what the person looks like and then search for a name that seems to fit. Have you ever been introduced to someone and you thought their name was going be one thing and it was another? Along the lines of “She looks more like a ‘blank’ than a ‘blank.’ ” Please don’t confuse “blank” here with “bleep!” Years ago, a guy I worked with always called me Dave. Whenever I’d correct him, he’d say, “Yup, okay,” then say, “See ya, Dave!”
Go figure. At least he didn’t call me late for lunch. Ba da duh dum.
Here’s how I decided on the name for my main character Tom Dunn: I wanted a one syllable last name, probably due to all the Bond movies I’ve seen. No, really, I do mean that for whatever it’s worth. After I came up with Dunn, I tried on for sound a variety of first names. I don’t remember now what they were (that was eleven years ago, folks), but here are some I imagine I came up with:
William (Bill) Dunn
Robert (Bob) Dunn
So you get the idea. In the end I liked the combination of syllables of Thomas Dunn, although he is most often called Tom, unless Pamela is pissed off at him.
My first novel, Operation Devil’s Fire ended up with 89 named characters! This led me directly to an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them. I use that Excel file for many things, daily word count, plot, notes, and others. I just copy the whole file for the next book and add a column for the new book’s characters (like below - sd4).
This way, I have all of my creations in one place, which keeps me out of trouble with using the same name, and prevents me from relying on my memory. Squirrel! (If you don’t know what this reference means, watch the movie Up.) Behind German Lines, Brutal Enemy, and book 4 (which I’m writing currently) have 51, 56, and 37 (so far) named characters, respectively. Since this is a series, there are lots of repeaters, but there are 167 distinct names across the four of them.
My Sgt. Dunn books are all set in Europe, so I have characters from these countries:
· United States – 52
· Britain – 37
· France – 20
· Germany – 44
· Italy – 11
· Japan – 3
Which leads me to an interesting article I read recently:
I guess it’s important to know what the laws are in your country. I confess, I never check for my characters!
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