I started writing fairly young, so all the names I used for characters happened to be students or family members. My best friend at the time was Amy, so every pet I owned and even my favorite stuffed animal was named Amy. My main character in all my stories also bared this beautiful name.
I was twelve when my mom signed me up for my first professional writing class, which happened to be for one night through the college “adult classes.” This is a separate group of classes offered through the college that basically give people a feel for whatever it is they want to learn.
The teacher said that to find better names for your characters, one should have a baby book of names. I was so excited by this advice, that I went to our local book store and bought the biggest name book I could find.
The cashier didn’t say anything, but she was clearly uncomfortable with a twelve year old buying this book. My mom noticed; I didn’t.
I ended up buying tiny baby name books at the grocery store too. I don’t think my dad blinked when I threw this palm sized $1.99 booklet onto the conveyor belt with the rest of our order.
My first serious boyfriend understood my love for writing and that I felt each book had a special name that the others hadn’t listed. He told me on my eighteenth birthday that he bought me a baby name book, but his mom made him return it due to the fact that if my family saw me open it, they would think I was pregnant. I personally don’t think it would’ve been a problem.
A decade plus a handful of years later, I have gone to rummage sales with my mom and I bought more baby name books. We also went to a yearly book sale at our local fair grounds and I found more baby book names, but I put one back because I thought I might not have all the money I needed for them. Later, I found out that my mom saw the book I put back and she had bought it for my birthday.
Why do I have so many name books?
It almost feels like a deck of tarot cards. You have the cards in your hand and you get the strong feeling that a certain card has the information you need for the question you asked. That’s what these books feel like to me. I know there is a certain name I need for my characters and though these books might have a lot of similar names, one of the books actually gives me what I need.
The name always fits.