From the desk of W. J. Onufer…
How does a writer come up with the names for their characters?
In the case of my little Vampire gal, Hadley Price, it was a process that took a few months. When I started writing about her and Nathan, I didn’t know their names yet. I knew what kind of people they are. They revealed that to me the more I wrote about them. And in the first draft of that writing I used the pronoun “she” in italics as a place holder for the name that would later become “Hadley Price”. I knew I had to go back in later drafts and plug that name in. But in that first draft, I knew her, I just didn’t know her name yet.
I don’t have any recollection of considering any other first name than Hadley. It wasn’t like I tried a few on for size to see how they worked. Mable? Trixy? Donna? Heather? No. When the name Hadley came to me, I knew that was her first name. It fit perfectly with the character I was getting to know so well.
I probably wouldn’t have chosen that name if it weren’t for the fact that I had spent fourteen years of my life employed at a business in a town called Hadley, Massachusetts. It’s near where I live, here, in Chicopee, Massacusetts. That’s the primarily reason I’m aware of the name, Hadley. I’ve heard it mentioned concerning a lesser character in the TV series True Blood. And the only reason I took note of that is because I have Hadley-name awareness. But other than that, you don’t hear the name Hadley that often. In either case, that place I worked at is a national company and a very well-known name. But since they weren’t so nice to me at the point where I parted ways with them, I won’t give them any free advertising by mentioning that name.
So I had the first name. Hadley. The main character, the central character in my stories, is a powerful Vampire woman named Hadley. I soon after came up with Nathan’s first name. And no, as far as I’m aware of, there is no Nathan, Massachusetts.
But what about her last name? Smith? Jones? Ramirez? Kolwalski? Beware the terror of the Vampire Hadley Potter! Nah. Not exactly original. I vetoed that and Hadley wasn’t crazy about it either. So what then? Cobain? Fallon? Beiber? Hadley Beiber? Oh hell no!
What about…Price? Hadley Price? Where did I get that? I’m not sure. I honestly have no idea where that came from. But it had a certain ring to it. The mighty Vampire Hadley Price! I knew it was right because Hadley basically slapped me upside the head and told me, “It’s about damn time you get it right. What took you so long?”
Now, I will admitt, I’m not a parent. But I will say that naming a character is probably not unlike naming a newborn son or daughter. Or naming a pet, for that matter. You give them something that they will forever be identified with. So I ask you, what was your process in doing that?
And fellow writers, do you know your characters before you know their names? Or do you start with the names and go from there? Or any variation on that? Did you know your main character’s name at the very beginning? Or did your main character play coy and not reveal that at the start, as Hadley did with me?
There’s a reason why I explained how I got the name of the central character in my Tales of the Vampire Hadley Price stories. And I’ll go into that in a near-future next blog.
Until then, I have one question for you: Will the real Hadley Price please stand up?
Inspite of what the Vampire Hadley Price may tell you, this is where I really got her name.