Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Character Naming and Other Writer Resources

By Jaye Valentine (Guest Blogger)

I'm not a book reviewer sort, or the advice-giving sort, but I am a stickler-for-details sort and as such, I've accumulated a rather impressive number of writerly resources throughout the years. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of these resources with my fellow authors.

As a reader, character names can make or break a story for me. In particular, names that are anachronistic to the time period or names that seem implausible for the character's parents to have chosen (e.g., wealthy Victorian Bostonians naming their son Zeke or Moe, or 1940s West Virginia coal miners naming their son Reginald Bartholomew, for instance) send my eyebrows shooting upward.

I give a lot of thought to my character names, including taking into consideration names that were popular when the character was born as opposed to when the story takes place. For example, an American female character who is age 70 in a story taking place in 2010 would unlikely be named Kristin. This character would've been born in 1940, and according to the popular baby names statistics collected by the Social Security Administration, Kristin was 1,005th in popularity at that time. This 70-year-old character would've more likely been named Margaret (11th in 1940) or Helen (18th), or perhaps Rosemary (85th).

However, had this character's age been 26 – 30 in 2010, her name being Kristin would be significantly more likely. In 1980, on the nighttime soap opera "Dallas," a character named Kristin was the one who shot J.R., an event that was massively advertised. The name Kristin soared to the 31st most popular name given to newborn girls in the United States by the following year. As fads change, so do names. The name Kristin had fallen way back down to 885th place by 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Another excellent character naming resource is Baby Names World on ParentsConnect. The "advanced search" truly is, and it enables you to narrow down names by gender, ethnicity, popularity, letters of the alphabet, and myriad combinations of those and other criteria. This site is particularly useful for finding foreign names (whatever "foreign" might mean to you) and their meanings. Reno and I relied heavily on this site when choosing Japanese and Arabic names for our characters in our recently released novel "Little Japan."

Since I've taken up more space than intended on the subject of names, I'll briefly list my other favorite research resources.

For currency conversion, the XE Universal Currency Converter is awesome and easy to use. If you need to convert to or from the metric system for any type of measurement, my favorite site is World Wide Metric.

The Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) is my favorite resource for nitpicky grammar and punctuation issues.

Having a problem conjugating an irregular verb? The list of irregular English verbs at Using English might save your sanity (not to mention your relationship with your editor).

Need to know what time sunrise and sunset occurs, anywhere in the world on a certain date? Or when the full moon will make an appearance? Writers of vampires and lunar-bound shifters will find the United States Naval Observatory's Complete Sun and Moon Date for One Day website invaluable. Just plug in the date and location, and the site returns everything you need to know to keep your vampires from accidental spontaneous combustion and your werewolves on their howling schedule.

I have many more websites in my bookmark folder, but these are by far the ones I visit most frequently. How about you guys? Any favorite resource websites you'd like to share?

And readers, what say you on the topic of character names? Is there anything that puts you off about names in the stories you read?

Happy writing,


BIO: Jaye Valentine lives in a small New England town famous for producing bungee cords and a notorious ax murderess. Along with partner Reno MacLeod, Jaye enjoys writing, watching movies, and is shamefully fond of competitive reality shows. In addition to the gritty, not-for-the-faint-of-heart urban fantasy, horror, and sci-fi novels Jaye co-writes with Reno, Jaye writes somewhat fluffier short stories under the pen name of Acer Adamson. For more information, visit Jaye and Reno's website and Jaye's GLBT Bookshelf Wiki. Follow Jaye's Twitter at your own peril.


Little Japan by Jaye Valentine & Reno MacLeod

ISBN 978-1-60592-092-4

Full-Length Novel (80,000 words)

Noble Romance Publishing, LLC

Release Date: March 8, 2010

Buy Link:

Japan. Land of honor and beauty, crowded streets with neon signs, and exotic markets where ancient traditions still hold fast in modern-day society. As Japanese business people rush about their busy lives, there exists a place in Osaka, Japan where a modern take on the ancient tradition of the geisha thrives.

Kuri and Daichi work at Kingyo Club, a popular host club in the Dōtonbori district of Osaka. After sleeping their days away, the boys' nights are owned by the host club lifestyle and anyone willing to pay the steep price for a few hours of hard drinking and flirtatious companionship. Kuri and Daichi are lovers and best friends, and along with their roommates Sora and Takumi, they look out for one another in an occupation fraught with both physical and emotional danger.

In addition to the endless bottles of fizzy champagne, expensive gifts, and confessions of false love courtesy of regular clients, every now and then comes a customer with even deeper pockets and much darker demands. Gabriel Hartley is one of these men. After a chance meeting, Gabriel targets the stunning Kuri to feed his obsession with seducing and dominating young Japanese men.

The relationship between Kuri and Gabriel dramatically changes when a traumatic event plunges them from the Land of the Rising Sun into the land of powerful sheikhs and servant boys in the dark underworld of exotic Dubai. As Kuri struggles with the heartache of having what's most precious to him ripped away, he helps Gabriel learn important lessons about love, honor, and the power of self-forgiveness.

Warning: This title contains graphic male homosexual sex, dubious consent, age play, and group sex.


Addison Albright said...

Great links and excellent points, Jaye! :-)

I never went beyond this basic baby name site: for my own research.

It does let you search by letter and boy/girl/unisex names, but nothing to the extent of the site you listed. At least not that I ferreted out, anyway. Since my stories have all been rather contemporary and set fairly locally I didn't need to go that extra mile.

My preference is for simple, common, everyday (and fairly timeless) names that we're all familiar with (for a contemporary local story, that is). Sometimes I venture to slightly different names but have always avoided the really odd ones.

It throws me off when reading if I come across a name that I have no idea how to pronounce, or it's just so unusual that it seems unlikely without there being an explanation for it in the story. I also dislike nicknames that make me cringe or when two or more characters have names that are similar. It confuses things.

Kassa said...

Oo great links!

As a reader names don't necessarily throw me off unless they're overused and stupid. I hate overly clever names or ones that just don't fit. I'll use your example and say if the lead character in a Japanese themed story was named Bob. Something like that can throw you entirely off or the all too common "cool" names like Trevor. Oy, seen a ton of Trevors.

I appreciate originality and names that feel fresh and new draw me in and leave me feeling the story is something different from the masses.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Jaye,

Welcome to Beyond Romance! I'm planning to keep a copy of your post in my resources file. Your point about the historical accuracy of names is well-taken (though probably only a few readers would ever notice). I love the idea of knowing the time of moonrise. This could definitely be a key fact in determining the outcome of some paranormal plots!

Thank you for sharing your secrets!

Carol L. said...

What useful sites you listed. Most useful to writers. I love Celtic and Scottish mens' names.
Thank you for the blurb. I've never read any of your books but I definitely will be reading this one. Thanks for the sharing.
Carol L.

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