Wednesday, August 1, 2012

{Blog Tour} Mad Science Institute by Sechin Tower

author.pic.2Today I hand the blog over to author Sechin Tower who penned Mad Science Institute. For all you authors, aspiring authors and people who just find writing totally cool, you’re going to love this post on Character Names!

When you’re done with the blog post, skip over to Goodreads and check out his book, and add that baby to your TBR!!!

Memorable Names for Memorable Characters

Huckleberry Finn. Albus Dumbledore. Katniss Everdeen. Good books have good characters, and good characters tend to have memorable names.

This is nothing new in English literature, going back at least as far as Shakespeare’s character Sir Toby Belch, an obnoxious drunkard who lives up to (or down to) his last name. If you’re a reader, you may have wondered where authors come up with some of these distinctive monikers, and if you’re an author you may have wondered how you can come up with your own. For every author it’s different, but here are a few of the ways writers create names for characters.

Subtle Reference Names

Rumor has it that J. K. Rowling got the name Potter from the family who lived next door. You can do the same. Know someone named Maggie who is bold and brave? Name your main character Margaret. Was your eighth grade crush named Robert? Name your book’s leading love-interest Rob or Bob. Authors beware: don’t let the characters become recognizably similar to the real life people or else you run the risk of hurting their feelings, maybe to the point where they call their lawyers. Let the name connect to a single, vague role in life and fill in all the other details from your imagination.

Not-So-Subtle Reference Names

Character names can be more memorable if they remind you of someone or something famous. In Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Seneca, Plutarch, and many other citizens of the decadent Capital are named after people of the equally decadent Roman Empire. On the other hand, the residents of the much more down-to-earth District 12 have more earthy names, particularly Katniss, Prim, and (Gale) Hawthorne, all of whom are named after plants.

The danger for authors here is that if you’re too obvious, readers feel like you’re hitting them in the head with the comparison. Don’t name your body builder Arnold, because everyone will know you got it from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the most famous body-builder of all time. But you could use a less-famous strongman or change the name to something less obvious: “Vincent” in place of Vin Diesel, perhaps. You get the idea.

Ironic Names

Speaking of that body-builder character, you could give him an ironic name like “Les” even though he’s trying to become more. Or name your mild-mannered librarian “Ms. Savage.” Or your heartless teacher “Professor Hart.” Don’t do this too often or the amusement will run thin, but the rare ironic name can be a treasure.

Hidden Meaning Names

As a reader, these are my favorite names because they give me a sort of “Easter egg” to figure out later on. As a writer, I also like them best because, well, I just can’t resist. In my novel Mad Science Institute, the main character is named “Soap” (short for Sophia), which is fitting because she’s a bit of a germaphobe. But it’s more than that: when the villains try to capture her, they soon find that her ability to tamper with electronic devices makes her as difficult to hold onto as a wet bar of soap. And her given name—Sophia—means “wisdom,” which seemed like an appropriate name for a student seeking more than just text-book knowledge. When you get a name that has more layers of meaning than you first intended, I think you’ve got the right name.

Foreign Names

Got a character from another country? Here’s what I do: run an internet search for “football team + [character’s country].” Soccer (or, as the rest of the world calls it, “football”) is truly the international sport, and every country in the world boasts a roster of players long enough to name all the characters in a trilogy. Just be careful to look at where a player is really from—they might play for Germany yet come from Bolivia, Botswana, or Brazil.

These are just a few ways that authors can find names for their characters. Once you find the right name, you’ll know it because it sticks like glue.

Find Sechin Tower:

Sechin Tower ( is a teacher, game designer, and the author of Mad Science Institute, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.


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