That’s right folks, today we’re discussing how to name your characters!
YAY… or nay depending how you feel about naming.
I, for one, love this step in the writing process. But, I realize many would rather get diarrhea than deal with this…too much?
If you are in this step of the game I’m assuming you have a pretty good idea of what type of book you’ll be writing––contemporary, fantasy, historical, all that jazz. And if you don’t, then I’m not too sure why you’re reading this…without a plot you don’t have any characters to name.
- Baby name websites are your friend! I mean this is true for all of the categories, but especially contemporary because it requires the least effort. With the other ones you have to go into weird lists and it can take some time…anywho, yes this is my go to when naming
- Who was that girl that always wore those red shoes in science class? What’s the one kid that bullied your sister in middle school? Your boyfriend’s mother’s maiden name? Work from experience here. You have a plethora of names already stored away in your memories.
Fantasy (or anything that does not take place in our world)
- Folklore and mythology are your friends, especially if your story has ties to a certain fairytale or what have you. For instance, in Sarah J. Maas’s book (I know I’ve already mentioned her but she is my Beyonce. Stop judging.) A Court of Thorns and Roses she named one of her characters Tamlin. Can you guess what folk tale is weaved throughout this story? Tam Lin. Enough said.
- Check out names from specific eras, but you’re going to want to go pretty far back…we don’t want no Marthas or Arthurs hanging out in Middle Earth
- Getting fancy with meaning can be fun here
- While this can be a bit complicated and time-consuming it’s really cool. If you have a character that is super badass, why not look up the Croatian word for warrior (it’s ratnik by the way, not the sexiest name, but hey, experiment here)
- Or invent a name! Create a word document and just prattle away at your keyboard. You will no doubt have some duds, but you may surprise yourself.
- Where’s your story based? Russia in the 1800s? Wow, how interesting. Look up names for that location in that time period. Done.
Compile all the names you like into a document and save it for years and years. It will become your best friend.
Now, that you’ve got some ideas, how do you go about picking one?
- Who are your characters?
- Are they regal? Rich? Laidback? Seductive? Confident? Shy?
- What kind of family do they come from?
- Normal? Eccentric?
- Pay attention to the connotations readers may have to certain names, like maybe don’t pick Chad for your leading man…I’m just saying. I once met a Chad on a beach who played the cello when he wasn’t bleaching his hair or surfing. I’m actually not kidding. You also probably don’t want to name your super awesome heroine Velvet Princess…unless she’s involved in a certain profession *ahem*
- Avoid using names that sound similar. While this happens in real life all the time, your readers will hate you if you have a character named John and another named James or a Stacey and with a best friend Tracey. Don’t do it. It gets way too confusing.
Sidenote: I would also recommend having names that carry some fluidity with one another. For example, I wouldn’t have Evia, Lucetta, and Fred…you catch my drift here? Also, if you happen to have Scrivener (if not, you can get a 30 day free trial here), use the word generator! It can really get the ball rolling.
Good luck and remember to have fun!