I find naming stuff really hard. Fictional streets, hotels, side characters, monsters, mystical laws or covens, bikie gangs… they can really do my head in, and that’s just the details! Forget the big stuff like protagonist’s names, book titles and towns. I’m so lousy at naming stuff that for the first two years, I referred to my MS as The Ghost Book. Which, honestly, I still kinda like…
A few years later, I started calling the book Haunted. Though this works literally and thematically, I’m pretty sure there’s about a thousand novels out there called Haunted (one of which was published by James Patterson). This is a problem because it makes it hard for people to find your book. If someone types “Haunted Book” into Google, chances are a million other books titles (and questionable eBay items [see: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill]) will be listed.
This inability to name stuff is why 80% of my characters are named after people I know, or they have super generic names like John, Paul, Sarah, Heather…who are also people I know… because, you know, generic. When it comes to streets, I tend to pinch names from my home town or rentals properties I’ve previous tenanted. If all else fails, I go with fruit names: Pear Street, Plum Avenue, Berry Road. Seriously.
While trying to name a gang in my latest manuscript, I turned to Google. Turns out, there is a website designed specifically to generate gang names! And look, they were pretty terrible, but at least it got my imagination going.
When the writing is flowing, rather than stopping, I just put a big X where the name of the street/character/gang should go. It still baffles me that I can be writing fluidly until the name of some previously unmentioned location, person or ‘thing’ appears. I suppose the responsibility of what that name may allude to is just too much.
Image: City Flower Wrapped Around My Heart by Thomas Hawk