What’s in a Name: How Authors Name Their Characters

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Have you ever thought to compare a baby to a seed? The name given to a baby is somewhat random. No one has any idea how the baby’s life will turn out. As the seed grows, it eventually creates its roots, stem, and colors. Similarly, as a baby grows, it creates its past, personality, and dreams.

We all have some idea of how our parents chose our names. But how can they know what names to choose when we have our whole lives ahead of us? What if you did know, though. What if you knew exactly what was going to happen to someone and you could change them? What name would you choose then? This is a situation that many authors face, and they all approach it differently. Here, we have responses from authors Catherine Doyle, Becky Albertalli, and Lauren Oliver.


Even though Catherine Doyle is a new author, that didn’t stop her first book, Vendetta, from becoming a hit! Vendetta is the first book of the Blood for Blood series. It is a mysterious love story about Sophie — a 16-year-old girl living in Chicago who has to discover who she is while trying not to fall in love with Nicoli.

When asked how she named her characters, Catherine Doyle responded with the following:

“In Vendetta, my MC’s name, Sophie, is short for Persephone, who, in Greek mythology, was brought to the Underworld by Hades and then became its queen. Her surname, Gracewell, is an ode to my mother, Grace, who grew up in Chicago, where Vendetta is set.
I named Nicoli after Niccolo de’ Niccoli, a famous Renaissance humanist who collected books and saved many important ancient manuscripts from destruction so that they would endure into the future and continue to inspire us. It’s a subtle nod to my love of literature.
Luca comes from the Latin meaning ‘Bringer of Light.’”

Catherine Doyle used her personal background to perfect her main characters’ names. For more information, you can read the rest of her interview with Germ or go to her website, CatherineDoyleBooks.com.


 

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. This book is about a 16-year-old boy who is secretly gay. He ends up getting blackmailed by one of his peers, and his secrets are on the line.

When asked how she chose the names for her novel, Becky Albertalli replied:

“I’d say most of my characters are given names I love, but wasn’t able to use for either of my kids. Sometimes, I name characters after family members! For my current work-in-progress, the main character is named Molly Adele, after both my grandmothers. Simon is the name of one of my great-grandfathers (though I didn’t make the connection until later). His last name, Spier, is a tribute to Mary Anne Spier, my favorite member of the Babysitter’s Club.”

You can find out more information about Becky Albertalli by reading her full interview with Germ or by checking out her website, BeckyAlbertalli.com.


 

Ever since a young age, author Lauren Oliver has been surrounded by the world of writing. Her parents are both literature professors, and we can see how the genes have been passed down. Her works are not only for young adults; she has expanded to both adult and young readers as well. Some books that Lauren Oliver has written so far are Before I Fall (one of my favorites!), Vanishing Girls, and the Delirium trilogy.

When asked how she chooses the names for her characters, Lauren Oliver replied:

“I’m not sure I’m a good candidate for this since my main characters’ names usually just spontaneously come to me. However, I can say that the central male character in my latest book [Vanishing Girls], John Parker, was named after my boyfriend.”

You can find out more information about Lauren Oliver by reading her full interview with Germ or by checking out her website, LaurenOliverBooks.com.

 

There you have it! The process authors undergo to create the perfect moniker for their characters is not that different from the way our parents chose names for us. The name can be inspired by a family member, it can simply be a name they love, and it can even appear spontaneously.

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