Sticks and Stones…, but names….

Call me Patricia is something my sister would never say, thanks to me. If you would like your throat punched, you may call her Patricia.  I'll leave that up to you. But at some point in our childhood, I decided to change her name from Tammy to Patricia. I don't remember any good reason for calling her a different name (for a short time) except to be annoying. 

Sticks and Stones may break my bones (and kill), but names will never hurt me. Umm, yes they do. 
There's power in a name. Some of the names I was called as a youth: Red (because of my reddish brown hair), freckles (well you know why), and TP (for toilet paper otherwise known as my initials). 
Names are important. We think long and hard about naming our children the perfect name. Our pets often get the same treatment. We may move from a childhood name of Tommy to Tom or Kathy to Kathryn. 

Names are a part of our identity. 
Here are book characters names you might recognize:
  • Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler.  (Gone with the Wind)
  • Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
  • Harry Potter (no not the character from MASH), Lord Voldemort, Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter Series)
  • Bella Swan, Edward Cullen (Twilight Series)
What about Rocky Balboa, Brad Pitt or Cher?  Are these names you recognize?

When I'm looking to name a character, I look at: 
  • Movie credits
  • Baby books
  • Yearbooks (not my own, that could complicate things)
  • Phone books
Here are some other people who have thought too much about choosing the right names for their characters.  

Writer’s Digest Magazine offers seven (brilliant) rules for naming Characters.
But if you can only handle six creative ways to name your characters check out The Write Life.
If you're feeling wild and crazy, peruse these top ten tips for naming characters at The Script Lab
My name means to reap and gather in or a harvester. Famous Teresa's are Mother Teresa, Teresa Brewer (singer) and Teresa Giudice, (Real Housewife of NJ who is in hot water). What does your name mean? If you're a writer where do you find your character names?


  1. These are helpful tips, Teresa! I like your name. :) I think mine means prayer to God. I've gotten so that I collect names and I have people who "give" me names who know I'm looking for them. :) I also use name randomizers. I need at least 5 new names for every book.

  2. I've always loathed my name. I think it's so weenie and lame. I was really close to legally changing it to Cheyenne when I lived on the west coast. That's why I've always preferred Jo or JoJo. Then along comes Russell whose mom's name is also Joanne, and who loves my first name. And when I hear him say it, my heart leaps a bit. So I guess I'll keep it. I think mine means something like 'precious gift of god', but I was named that b/c it was the female version of my dad's John. Then I chose 'Michelle' as my confirmation name b/c his middle name was Michael. I wasn't given a middle name at birth. I have always given 'Michelle' as my middle name on my ID and passports and stuff, and it just occurred to me that technically, it's not legal. lol It's only a Catholic church name.

  3. I've been called many things haha but never bothered me. As for names I go with what comes to me and if I can't think of anything I hit a bunch of keys and make a name out of what comes up.

  4. No one really ever called me names that affected me too much. My grandparents and aunt and uncles on my mother's side called me Bobby Lee which sounded nice from them, but might have been less so from everyone else. I made up mean names for my sister and I think that has affected her to some degree to this day. I could be mean!

    Coming up with character names can be tricky.

    Tossing It Out

  5. My mother named me Roland for the hero of the French Epic poem: The Song of Roland. And she gave me the middle name Durand from his sword, Durandal.

    It was a life lesson: Though Roland was brave and a leader, pride was his flaw. It was his pride that led him to refuse to blow his great horn for help and so he and his men were killed. He loved his men, yet he killed them from his pride. Mother wanted me to learn to be brave ... but also to care enough for others to be humble.

    Samuel, my prime hero, his name means God has heard. And his life is one of helping others, letting them know that God has heard the cries of those in need.

    Victor Standish's name has a whole chapter in my first book on him to explain why Victor chose Standish as his last name. You see, his mother would never tell him who his father was. She gave him the name Victor because she meant to forge him into someone who would always be the victor in the struggles of his life.

    Wow. Your post got me thinking ... and writing. Have a great day!

  6. Sometimes I let the character name themselves. Of course, it's all about the name that sounds right. Ocassionally, I use baby books or look up names from certain nationalities and their meanings.
    Names do have power. Mythology is full of the power of knowing a personal name.

    I had to laugh when I read about names to annoy siblings. We all had *extra* names for each other, lol!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

  7. Funny--I have a neighbor whose sister TERESA goes by Tammy for some reason. Not sure why people impose the name on people... erm... (you know I am Tami in real life, yes?) But I agree--I was called "Moose" for a period in my teens. A big brother of a friend said it to be mean and a couple of my friends thought it was "fun". Man I hated that. I was so self conscious after that. But I've had dozens of other nicknames: Tamster, TimTam (it's an australian cookie), Stilts, Tartlette (love you Jan), and my favorite--my friend Karen calls me Naked Spice.

    I tend to go to google for ethnic names of any sort (including really common in the US like Irish or German) because ethnicity drives my character sketch somewhat and at least last names should fit.

  8. Names are very important. I often deliberate over my main character's name for a long time. Great post.

  9. Not sure what my (real) name means. Never really had any nicknames growing up either. There are names of characters that stay with you forever.

  10. TP - that wasn't nice.
    My name means defender of men.
    Most of my names I've brainstormed in thirty minutes or less. (Easy when they are science fiction names and you can just make up stuff.) But for the last book, I wanted the alien names to have a British flair, so I searched for British first and last names, and then mutated them a bit.

  11. Ooh, rules for naming characters. I need to read that! Usually my characters' names aren't especially significant, but after about 20 rounds of revisions, they certainly seem like they fit!

  12. Great links! I like distinctive names in books but they have to be names I can pronounce at least most of the time. The exception to this is Hermione; I called her "hermeeonnnee" for at least four books because I am an idiot.


  13. Good post! I usually pay more attention to my characters last name and match it to their personalities.

  14. Beautiful post, Teresa. Roland posted a link to this post and I wandered over. I LOVE researching names. It's funny that you mentioned movie credits as a place of inspiration; I just started paying attention to them for that very reason! My first name means "white lady or white phantom" and my middle name, Lynne, means "the pool at the bottom of a waterfall". I like to think in a round about way my name means, "Lady of the Lake". Nice to "meet" you!


  15. I have always wondered what inspires an author's choice of name. So neat how some names become iconic, isn't it?

  16. I usually base my fantasies on another culture or time period, and then look up names that are or were popular then. I can sympathize with "Patricia." Call me David. Call me Dave. Call me "Davey" and we'll have a problem. :)

  17. Names are important. I enjoy thinking up the perfect ones for my characters.

  18. How did I miss this until now? Ack. I spend a lot of time on names. I look on baby name sites, popular name lists by year, genealogy sites for older or historical names. Also maps and newspapers if the person comes from a particular area. And more.


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