You’re the author, right? You control the story. After all, it’s all coming out of your head, isn’t it?
Now I usually haven’t had
much trouble naming my main characters as soon as they appear on the page. Some
friends have asked me how I can come up with such unusual names as are
necessary in fantasy, but the only challenge I’ve usually had is getting the
spelling arranged so the reader can pronounce them in some way close to how I
hear the names in my head. Secondary characters have had their names changed on
occasion, but most of them spring on the page “fully named” as soon as I
conceive of them (buddies Grodar and Morys, for instance from THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE, and Rees and
Pumble from my upcoming release BLOODSTONE).
But main characters—the author
should know their names before she begins to write the first draft.
Tell that to my hero of BLOODSTONE.
He insisted on being “the
man” for the first third of the book—or the Shadow Man, as he’s known to
others—before I decided I had to figure out what he wasn’t telling me. Turns
out he had a very good reason for withholding his true identity. He was in
serious denial and had almost forgotten who he used to be.
Once another character
unlocked his memories in a series of flashbacks, I knew who he was and how he
came to be the Shadow Man. And I finally got a name. Not to mention a full
sense of how the heroine would both challenge and complete him.
I don’t recommend diving into
writing a story without a name for a main character. A well-chosen name tells
both the writer and the reader a great deal about that person. The writer has a
mental, emotional, and sometimes physical guide to that character and how
he/she might react and what might motivate him/her. The reader forms an instant
impression to that character. For instance, who didn’t correctly size up J.K.
Rowling’s Severus Snape or Draco Malfoy as soon as either of them appeared on
the page? Names are powerful or we writers wouldn’t invest so much effort in
choosing the right one.
Still, if a character refuses to "play nice," perhaps he or she is telling you something and you need to dig deeper.