Naming Your Characters

I absolutely love and loathe naming characters. Think about all the time parents spending picking, arguing, voting, and vetoing names for their kids! It is not any different for writers. A name can help or hurt a manuscript.

The first part is trying to find a name that is familiar, so readers can relate. Yet, the name must also be unique to prevent readers from finding it “boring.”

The second part is matching the name to the characters’ lifestyle, age, and how readers might perceive the name. It’s like the devils on your shoulder, GOOD and BAD.

GOOD: Name her Alice, everyone loves an Alice.

BAD: Alice  sounds like she would be my grandma.

GOOD: But your Grandma Alice is the best.

BAD: Yes, but she is still my grandma. I don’t want to date my grandma.

Although part one and two look similar, they are different in their own right. You would not give a Greenlandic name to a Oklahoma man who has no family connections with Greenland. Another example could be Rose. Rose might be perceived one way by a large group of readers, which might hurt or help make your story. If the reader doesn’t believe that Rose is a 10-year-old skateboarding champion then you lose the connection with the reader.

I do a detailed amount of research on the names I use, making sure the origin, etc. would be a good match for my characters. My favorite tool to use for character names is Baby Name Origins.

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5 comments

  1. Naming characters is the bane of my existence, oh my god. It takes me so long to decide, because it is such a fundamental part of the story. I’ve been trying name-generators, and they can at least help by giving you some ideas 🙂

  2. It only makes sense to ponder deeply the names of our characters. After all, writing a manuscript is much like giving birth to a new life. I also use Baby Name Origins website. Often the perfect name will spring out, or give me plenty to try on for my characters.

  3. I know your pain Savannah! Out of all the characters I came up with only one sticks out, but I think once you’ve established that one main name the other side characters should fall into place. Do you ever try to sketch your characters out like for instance what they might wear or what long hair or short hair they might have?

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