Guest Post: The Trouble with Names by Anthony Stevens

October 1, 2012 Uncategorized 5

As you may or may not remember, I am a featured blogger for the Olde City New Blood Conference, in Feb 2013. And I am SO. Excited. One of my first duties is to help promote the crap out of this conference. So today I would like to introduce you to one of the 50 (yes 50!) featured authors, Anthony Stevens. He has a lovely guest post on keeping the names of your characters straight.

Oh, and you could enter to win a free registration to the event. And hang out with me. πŸ™‚

Sooner or later, most writers run into a problem finding names for their characters. If one is writing a short story, two to four names are usually needed. A novel generally requires many more and, if the writer is creating series, then a hundred or more may be required. George R. R. Martin, creator of Game of Thrones, is reputed to have a four-drawer filing cabinet full of character profiles for more than six hundred named characters in his epic series.

With that in mind, I count myself lucky to have only needed a few dozen for each of my series. Even so, tracking them has become a challenge.

The trouble with names comes from two problems. In the first place, the writer needs to come up with new names on a regular basis. The new names should not sound too much like other names used in the same story to avoid confusion. As an example, Don, Dan, and Den, sound way too much alike to share the same paragraph, much less the same book. The same applies to Don, John, Ron, Tom. I’m sure any aspiring author can think of dozens of both male and female examples.

One solution that I’m sure has occurred to many of us is to Tuckerize the book. That means to use the names of family, friends, coworkers, allies, and enemies to fill the gap. This has its dangers as well as its rewards. Background on this can be found here.

A more common solution is to search baby name websites for the perfect one. Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match names from various ethnic backgrounds.

Currently, I’m working on a trilogy of science fiction novels. There are characters from several ethnic groups and the last book even requires alien names. Since I’m dealing with some primitive aliens, I took a page from human history. If one looks far enough back into the mists of time, all surnames have evolved from a trade or skill. All the Smiths, for example can trace their linage back to one or more metal workers.Β  I chose a handful of basic sounds to denote different skills within their tribal structure, then added other sounds to denote the individual. The first alien the humans meet is called CheeYok. In their language, Yok denotes a hunter, while Chee is his given name.

The second problem with names is keeping track of all of them. Even in the same novel, it is way too easy to get lost while telling the tale and confuse character names.

There are both Open Source and Commercial programs to help track all the bits and pieces of creative work. Here are a couple of popular ones:

Scrivener is an industry standard.

Celtx is an excellent Open Source program used by scriptwriters, comic artists and novelists.

On the other hand, I’ve found simple works best. My solution is to use my favorite word processor, LibreOffice Writer, to create two files for every novel. One file is the actual work in progress, while the other contains a list of character names and profiles, in order of their appearance, an outline of major plot points, and a list of URLs that have provided research data. When the first draft is finished, I send both the first draft and the notes to my editor.

I hope this is helpful and, as always, I’d love to hear what works for you. Good luck and keep writing!

Anthony Stevens
Come visit an Urban Fantasy world!


Anthony Stevens is the nom-du-porn of an olde pharte Technogeek, Author, Photographer, Leathercrafter, Dom, Gearhead, History Freak, Cardstock Model Maker, and Graphics enthusiast. His writing includes urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, and erotica.
Anthony currently has seven titles available from Red Rose Publishing. Two more are expected before the end of 2012 and three more self published science fiction novels to follow.
Although born in Florida, he’s lived in Florida, Mexico, Virginia, New Jersey, Indiana, Texas, and California.
His favorite reading matter is Science Fiction, Fantasy and of course, Erotica.


Don’t miss your chance to meet Anthony Stevens at the Olde City, New Blood mini-convention in St. Augustine, FL this coming February 8-10th. Need MORE of an incentive to come chill out with some awesome authors by the beach?? How about if you win FREE REGISTRATION?? That’s right… this week we’re having a blog-hop-style contest and you could win your way in!!

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form, AFTER you answer the blog question in the comments below. All of the featured bloggers for the event will be hosting special guests from Olde City, New Blood this week (September 30th – October 6th) and every post is another chance for you to enter to win. There will be additional chances to enter at some of the featured authors’ websites, as well. There will be 3 winners, who will be chosen randomly from all entries, announced on October 7th. (Winners will be responsible for their travel and hotel costs, but their registration fees will be covered by the mini-con!!) For a complete list of blog posts and extra author entries, please see the official contest announcement on the website.

I sometimes have a hard time keeping names straight while reading, I can only imagine how hard it is to keep track while writing! Do you have any tricks or tips on keeping track of names while reading?

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5 Responses to “Guest Post: The Trouble with Names by Anthony Stevens”

  1. Nanette

    That’s interesting and not really something I thought about. I get characters confused all the dang time πŸ˜‰

  2. Phaedra Seabolt

    While reading I find that the further I get in the book, the more the names stick. Occasionally I will mark pages where people are introduced so I can go back to refresh my memory. I do that more for when I write my reviews than anything.

  3. Theresa Krueger

    I will not remeber names as much as the image i come up with in my head, I struggle with remebering names on a regular basis and my reading is my ze time, i try not to strss over it.

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