This is ACT II to Pat’s wonderful blog two days ago so grab your popcorn, Junior Mints and Diet Coke. Settle into your favorite chair, dim the lights and start the sequel! (Eat your heart out Spielberg.)

Ever been stuck for a name to fit your plucky heroine or dastardly villain but your brain can’t get past the mundane? Consider the phone book. First names. Last names. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. (Insert your favorite instrumental music here.) I tell you, this book has it all and the bigger the city, the better selection. Just let your fingers do the walking.

Baby name books. (Slide show of the cutest babies in town—your own included while we are treated to a moving rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.) If you don’t own a book, then buy one or hit the web for more names and meanings than you could ever use.

Year books. (Showing bad hair photos and smiles with shiny braces while playing 80’s music.) Remember Betty Brown and Janet Jones, the mean girls in high school? Now is your chance to get even. They could become Betty Jones and Janet Brown and you can steal their boyfriends before the end of the first chapter. Or make them flat broke, flabby and working some menial job at your heroine’s very successful company.

Friends and family. (Slightly out of focus photos of family members gathered around Grandpa while we are treated to the theme to Deliverance.) As long as they are minor characters and you paint them in a good light, then go for it. Just remember you might be sitting next to them this Thanksgiving when you ask them to pass the gravy. Trust me, it’s not worth a lap of turkey goop.

Map Quest. Where do these people live? How far away? How long will it take them? Which highway will you choose for your characters to run out of gas, blow a tire, lock their keys in the car, pick up a lonely hitch-hiker or get stranded at a motel on a hill? (Key in the spooky music along with visual images of Freddy, Jason and or Norman Bates.

So, savvy writers, what forms of research do you use when you get the urge to create a masterpiece of your own?

Roll the credits.


Jessica Mobley said...

I remember when I was prego, looking through a HUGE baby name book at the public library. It was hilarious. We ended up just making fun of these names and forgot to actually try and pick one. Good times. Love you mommy!

Jan Schliesman said...

I'm going to add another to your quest for names...soap operas. I also go through my nephew's grade school yearbook and see what's up with the newest names.

Reese Mobley said...

Jessie, thanks for the input. For me, naming characters isn't as easy as some people might think. It's almost as hard as naming your children. XOXO

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks for commenting, Jan. I haven't watched a soap operas in years but another good place for names and faces would be movie gossip magazines.

Roxann Delaney said...

My favorite name source is the Social Security Administration. They have a website dedicated to popular baby names. Plug in the year and get the top 20-1000 names. But it doesn't stop there. Do you want to know how popular a particular name is by year? Just type it in, and SSA will give you the results. It doesn't stop there, either, and gives more information than any baby name book I've found.

It's especially helpful when looking for names for older characters. (Yes, even those in my age range!)

SSA Popular Baby Names

Joan Vincent said...

I really had a "duh!" moment when I came to the telephone book! Great suggestions, Reese.
I have a couple of books I really like for names and two web sites:

Behind the Name The Etymology and History of First Names

20000 Names from Around the World

Reese Mobley said...

Wow, Rox. That's a huge database of names. And I thought the phone book held a lot of information. Thanks for the idea.

Reese Mobley said...

Hey, Joan. Between you and Rox we should be covered with every name in the world. I actually googled Italian male names for my latest wip. Dominick. Enough said. (grin)

Roxann Delaney said...

Joan, I have the Etymology of First Names bookmarked! Along with the Etymology of Surnames, they make a great pair and are perfect for characters who need more ethnic names.

But I still use the phone book when at a loss for a last name. :)

Pat Davids said...

I use the mudane baby book. I cross out the names I've used already. I will admit to having used the phone book a time or two.

My heroines used to be easy. I'd choose one of the gals that worked with me in the NICU, and with their permission, I'd base my heroine on their first name and discription.

One day I was watching a little league championship on TV and got so great, heroic sounding names for my heroes.

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks ladies for all the great tips. XOXO

Starla Kaye said...

Thanks for the new name resources. Another good post.

Penny Rader said...

Great post, Reese! I love baby name books. I've also discovered interesting names from inputting client info, standing in checkout lanes, watching credits on movies and tv shows.

Pat, re: baby name books, I love the idea of crossing out the ones I've used. Thanks for the links, Rox and Joan. Can't wait to check them out, too.