I’ve already posted about places to find inspiration for character names here but once you move away from individual stories and start to compile a collection, you may find you have a new problem.
We all have our own personal preferences about names – and we are all the product of our own era – so for any writer there will be a number of names which tend to come to mind relatively easily. These are likely to be the more common names for people around your age range (or possibly the age ranges of your parents or significant others) – eras in which, possibility without realising it, you’ve taken a special interest. The chances are, certain names will feel right to you for a particular kind of character. This might be unconscious – for instance, you might not choose the name of the person who bullied you at school to be your hero/heroine. There are also names – particularly of celebrities – which either become unusable or only possible to use for a very specific type of character because the name comes with connotations shared by society as whole. And then there are the names that are too close to you – those of family and friends whose names it might be odd to use and are therefore out of bounds.
My point is, unless you try really hard, you might end up using quite a small pool of names for your characters. And this doesn’t really matter for individual stories which will be published either singly or in a magazine full of other people’s stories. But it does matter once you start putting those stories together in a collection. All of a sudden you realise that you love the name “Dave” and you now have seven Daves in one collection. Worse, Dave in story No. 2 is a manipulative boyfriend, while Dave in story No. 7 is the guy at work who could become a love interest. The first Dave will certainly taint the second one in the mind of the reader! Argh!
Obviously, when creating a collection of stories, you can get around this by making a list of all the names you have used in each story in the collection. When doing this, you need to remember to include every name (and surnames where applicable), not just the important ones – you may be surprised how many characters you’ve actually had to name! Often it’ll be the minor characters that will catch you out – particularly if your collection includes some stories you wrote eons ago.
To make things very slightly easier you can stick your list into an Excel document. Then:
- select the name column
- click Home > Conditional Formatting > Highlight Cell Rules > Duplicate Values, and then click OK.
The column will then highlight in your chosen colour where a name appears more than once. This could be useful in a large collection – or indeed a novel, or series.