Naming Characters – Tricky or Not?

During one of the many writerly debates I’ve recently had (Oh, alright then, chats over coffee and a humungous slice of cake!) the subject of naming our characters arose. Not so much the names themselves – i.e. we all agreed that having Tommy, Timmy and Tammy all appearing in one scene, would cause major confusion – more, if anything, what influences those choices.

I rather sheepishly confessed to experiencing niggles of guilt if I christen either a po-faced, cantankerous or toffee-nosed character with the same name as someone I personally know, or one of their nearest and dearest.  I mean, that person might never even read my book. And it’s not like it’s deliberate. If a particular name fits a certain character, it fits, right? Besides, it could work the other way. My neighbour might read my book and think I’ve named that beautiful, kind-hearted, law-abiding heroine after her, when to me; the name simply suits my character’s personality. So why do I worry about it so much?

“Oh, Jan! What are you like?” said writerly friend number one. “I could have an ex-boss called Jack who might be a twonk of the highest order, but if I want my hero to be called Jack, then Jack, he’ll be. End of! Same goes for any name, really…”

Writerly friend number two did, however, admit to feeling so frustrated at times about the naming issue, that she resorts to opening her “10 million trillion names” book or whatever it’s titled, twirling her finger in the air three times and selecting whichever name on the page it lands on. Although she did also confess to applying the ‘best of three’ rule occasionally.

The fourth member of our party simply shook his head, ordered us more cake and told us the only names he avoids using are family ones, and how he’s more concerned about his grandparents reading his saucy sex scenes. Ooh, er! An entirely new debate… 😉

So… where do you stand on the topic? Do you shy away from giving characters certain names, or do you steam straight in?

After all, it is fiction, isn’t it?

Jan x