Since my DH is a lifelong auto racing enthusiast, I've become a fan through osmosis. This Memorial Day weekend, we were actually home for a change, and watched avidly as Dario Franchitti slid across the yard of bricks to win the soggy Indy 500. Then, after calling the top finishers, the announcer said something about Franchitti being only the second Scot to win the Indy 500...
SAY WHAT?!?! Dario Franchitti is a SCOT?!?!
Yet another example of real life that would never work in fiction! As all novelists know, readers presume a lot about characters based on their names, ethnicity being one of the major things. I know, I know it doesn't necessarily work that way in "real life." Nevertheless, if you are writing a novel with a Scottish character his/her name better be McSomethingOrOther or you risk alienating your readers!
So where DO writers find all those wonderfully fitting character names? Thanks to the internet and Google, first names are easy. You can find just about any ethnicity. I know because I wanted some typical Croatian names for one of my books which has a half-Croatian hero. And I found 'em, NO PROBLEM! (along with Serbian, Russian, Arabic and MORE ) Not only can you find any ethnic first name, but you can also find out which names were the most popular in any particular decade. VERY handy not just for historical settings but naming secondary characters like Great Aunt Bertha and Grandpa Edgar.
Last names can be a bit trickier. I stumbled across some great census data from Ireland by county while researching names for my latest novel set in Northern Ireland. I also like to thumb through the phone book (luckily I live in a large metropolitan area and there are LOTS of names), and there are a treasure-trove of last names in the closing credits of most movies. Some writers use names of friends for minor characters. Another writer I know says she uses the names on the spam emails she gets! Talk about recycling!
So what about YOU? If you are a writer, how do you select names for your characters? And if you're a reader, would YOU believe a Scot named Dario Franchitti?
And THANX A BUNCH for hanging out with us in the Bandit lair.