By Steve Weddle
Cal Innes. Matt Scudder. Billy Lafitte. Angel Dare. Ray Dudgeon.
How do you come up with character names?
One way is to combine names of people you know. Kieran Holm. Sabrina O'Shea. Julie Donovan. Pop Culture Monkey.
Another way is to figure out when you character was born and hit the webernet. For example, if your character was born in the 1960s, you could hit the SSA's popular names for the 60s and come up with "Marc." But what about a last name?
You can always hit the Random Name Generator for some fun. Roxie Coltharp? Erik Altom? Florintina Abershams? Well, OK.
How memorable do you want the name to be? Steve? Dave? Jay? John? Scott? Sandra? Or something a little less ordinary. Joelle? Or Russel with just the one "l"?
If your story takes place in 1850s New England, you'll want to dig in a particular place, of course.
I'm working on some stories that take place round about now down in southwest Arkansas and northwest Louisiana. Where I grew up. Where my people are.
I have, in my possession, a hardback book of a couple hundred pages of everyone on my mom's side I'm related to. Yeah, pretty much every damn person. From Verdie Holt in Idabel to David Toms on the 18th green. I know that my uncle Aubrey went by "Pete" and that Cleo was called "Preacher." Emma Sue was buried at the Falcon Cemetery and Faye moved off the Bethel and had a mess of young 'uns.
Since the stories I'm writing now take place in this community, I essentially have thousands of character names just waiting for me to use. Averdale. Buck. Delsie. And last names, too. Vandiver. Cates. Lacewell. Most folks would probably come up with some clever way to use all of these names. Maybe they'd create their own random name generator.
This works because I'm working one place and I have a fantastic resource. When I need to pull a name from ye olden dayse, say the 1840s, I just thumb around to some folks who were born around then and I've got some names. Major Hugh. Monroe Jefferson. And then I can pull last names from anywhere in the book or -- more likely -- use the name of whatever family they fit with. I'm not sure I know anyone named Pribble, but in my stories, they're a nasty, brutish lot.
So that's how I came up with names for this latest collection, a set of stories taking place mostly in Columbia County, Arkansas, mostly about now.
How do you come up with your names? Or what are some cool names in stories, the kind of names that seem perfect for the characters?
Later today, I'll grab a name from the comments and send that person a copy of SOUTHERN GODS by John Hornor Jacobs. That sound cool?