writingtips

5 Tips for naming Characters

Today, I am going to share the methods I use to create the name of my characters.  You will find lots of advice online to help you with this and you should cherry pick what works for you.

Naming you character

Choosing a name for your character can be difficult at the start.  I try to choose names for my characters that are an Aptronym.

Try to think about who they are and where they are from in your decision making:

Finding a name

  • Period in time:  If your story is set in the past, you should research typical names for the time otherwise it won’t be believable.
  • Geographic:  Find names that tell your reader where they are from.  For example, if they have moved to America from Africa use a typical African name.
  • Personality:  Check the meanings of names to see if it reflects their personality.  For example, are they bitter or a happy person.
  • Characteristics: Check the meaning of names to see if they describe the way their look.  For example, do they have dark hair or blue eyes and they a runner with strong legs.
  • Abilities:  Check the meaning of names for their abilities i.e. are they clever, a singer or do they have super powers connected to water.
  • Position:  Check the meaning of names based on their relationship in the story for example are they the friend, lover, teacher, mother or leader (boss/manager).
  • Relatives:  If your characters are part of a family then it is more realistic that the parents chose similar style of names.  For example, a hippy parent might call their children “Rainbow” and “Sage” and it would be odd if one child was called “Elizabeth” which has a very different feel to it.  When naming siblings try to stick to names that sound like they would have been chosen by the same person.

Visit baby naming websites with tools to enable you to search for names, meanings and themes.  You can also use a search engine to see if anyone else has made a suitable list for example “Rock Star names”.

Here are some good sites:

If you are using software specially for writers, see if it has a name generator as part of the application.

If you like something physical to use, there are tons of baby naming books that you can buy and some that are for certain themes i.e. Celtic names.

Record your name research

Keep a list of your favourites and important information about them.  This will help you in future.  For example, if you are writing a story about Witches and researched 18th Century names then this list will come in handy for introducing future characters.

I like using Wunderlist for this.

Pronounceable

Make sure the name you have chosen is easy for the reader to pronounce (even in their head).  It is incredibly off putting if you’ve made up a name that slows down the pace of your story because your reader has to think about what it says.

Sometimes, Fantasy writers will create strange names to illustrate that their character is from another species.  This is fine but don’t make it illegible.

Things to avoid

If you are writing fiction make sure that your character is not named after someone.

  • Named after someone: Be careful if your characters name is the same as a living person and make sure it is clear that your fictional character isn’t based on them.  You can write a disclaimer to cover this and there are some great examples on The Book Designer.
  • Multiple nicknames:  If you use a nickname for your character, stick to one.  If your character goes by many names it can get very confusing and frustrating for your reader to keep up.

Temporary names

If you still don’t know what to call your character, choose something that is easy to replace i.e. something unique.  Then when you have made your mind up, use Find and Replace in your word processing software to change the name.

Learn from my mistake:  I once had this problem and called my character “Sam”. When I finished my 65,000 word manuscript and wanted to change the name it was horribly difficult.  You wouldn’t believe the number of words that have ‘sam’ appears within it.  This made it a very tedious task.  If I had picked something unique like Bartholomew then the correction could have been made in a few clicks.

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