Have you ever met someone with a name that didn't fit them? Whenever I do, I have trouble remembering their name. Names should fit characters, too. The nice thing is writers can control that.
I keep a notebook for every book I write. On the first page I list the characters. If you look at any of my lists, you will discover scratches through some of those names because as I write and learn more about them, I often realize their name doesn't belong with their personality. It keeps me from getting to know the real character. So I'll change their name. And when I get it right, the characters start to become more fully developed.
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In When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, Cal's last name originally was Pringle. Then early in the first draft I realized his family had Irish roots. They became the McKnights. The entire family had red hair except for the mother. They were hard-working folks and Mr. McKnight expected his children to work in the fields on weekends and during summer breaks. All that came about after the name change.
The Bowl-A-Rama owner, Ferris Kelly was once Carter Kelly, then Fenton Kelly. For whatever reason, he became Ferris. Now I couldn't think of him by any other name.
Another ritual that I do when I start a story is that I write the characters name on a dry marker board. It hangs on the left wall of my office, visible from my desk. Just reading one of those names reconnects me with my story. With each draft those names become more powerful. Not necessarily in their character, but in their capability of drawing me into the story. They become real people. Real people with a name that fits.
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