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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Tue 11
Aug
2015

How I Name Characters

Writing

How do you decide on the name of the characters?

I have a strict process. First, I use whatever name pops into my head. Then, about eight months later, I realize everybody’s name begins with E. So I have to change some or the book is too annoying to read. But now I can’t imagine them as anyone else, so I make the smallest changes possible, like using their surnames more often.

Sometimes I write a novel that doesn’t get published, and that’s handy because I can reuse all the names. Boy, there were a lot of Hollys before one finally made it into Company.

I do strongly believe in the importance of names, though. They’re the characters’ faces: the part you see over and over. So they’re doing characterization work every few lines. This is why I will find any excuse to get a name like Plath or 6 or Jennifer Government into a book.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Russell (#3897)

Location: USA
Quote: "O Lord, Protect us from those to whom you speak directly"
Posted: 1253 days ago

6 is the greatest name in fiction. Especially when she got indignant about being called "six".

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