Name Theory: Six Degrees of Character Naming

This writer for whom I named a character this week could have found the same name in several ways. This is a phenomenon I’ve seen several times. I call it Six Degrees of Character Naming.

Six Degrees of Separation, an offshoot of Small World Theory, claims that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away by introduction to any other person. In my version, every writer is six or fewer steps away from the perfect character name, and has only to find the right chain to that name.

The six degrees theory also allows for several chains or paths to the final goal—in this case a character name.

In this week’s instance:

The writer sought help on a forum and found my postàthe writer asked me for helpàI searched on the SSA’s Baby Names listàI found names that fit the writer’s styleàI contacted the writer with my suggestionsàthe writer found the character’s name on my list.

For the name that this writer chose, we could have followed another path to the same name—Orion.

For example, as I mentioned on Monday I could have searched for “Cat Names” on 20,000 Names and found that name listed, and then offered it to the writer. Or, I could have searched for “Cat Names” on Yahoo! and found one of several lists that had Orion as a suggestion (since Orion was a hunter, just as cats are hunters).

Or the path the writer followed could have been completely different, such as:

The writer seeks help with character namingàthe writer asks friends and family for name suggestionsàthe writer’s mother offers a list of names including the name of her cat from long agoàthe writer notices that the cat’s name, Rye, is the perfect nickname for this characteràthe writer searches online for names that have Rye as a nicknameàthe writer finds and choses Orion.

Many paths leading to one destination: The name the writer feels is perfect for the character.

Often my path to character names involves doing research for the book and finding the name on a website, or looking at lists of names and creating a character for one of them. The key is to make sure that you notice the names you see, rather than waiting until you need a name and then stressing over not remembering any good ones.

Names are all around you. Follow a path and find the right one for your character.


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