I’ve seen a lot of writers chatting about naming characters lately and thought this would be a timely post. Naming a character is like naming a child. You riffle through options until the right one sticks out and you just know it’s a match. After all, that’s what you’ll be calling them forever. Literally. There’s a few ways to locate a name-
- Think Of It- Like a friend or family member’s name.
- Research It- Perhaps you found it in a book.
- Make It Up- Or Maybe you threw the name together yourself.
Regardless of the ways you locate the name, you have to wonder if that name is right. Narrow down your options by analyzing the choices. Some names evoke a certain personality, like Eugene (didn’t picture a big beefy dude, didya?) or names that sound a specific way (i.e. Maleficent) can influence the way readers interpret your character. Other times the names might need to fall in line with a time period or a genre. But I’d have to caution against making it SO obvious you’re in the future or past by typecasting everyone with a time period name. The name should suit the character’s personality, behavior and situation.
With a large cast of characters, you want to be sure everyone is easily identifiable and that the names don’t blend together or confuse readers. Conversely, with a small cast, the names should be particular enough to resonate with readers. Yes, naming one character should factor in to naming others.
The names you want to avoid are ones that might already have an image because they’re attached to another story or real person. Unless however, that is your intention.
From my personal experience, I’ve used all three methods of conjuring names. And they’re equally effective in producing solid names. Finding the right name will come to you, don’t worry. You’ll see the glowing halo around the name and know it’s the one.