Naming Your Character

The classic tedious issue. You’ve got the perfect character in mind – their looks, quirks, pitfalls, and abilities. But what about their name? Personally, the name is normally the last thing I come up with for a character. I think that might be for the best, as I don’t want to come up with a character to fit a name, I want the name to fit the character. So, how do you do that?

The first thing I like to consider is the core personality of the character. Is she snappy? Firey? Quick-witted and ready for a fight? To me that’s an Alex. You may think of a different name at that description, and that’s fine. You should never force a name you don’t like onto your character. Your character’s person and their name should go hand in hand, becoming part of the character’s identity, not simply a proper pronoun.

Just out of habit, I like to search the name of my character and find out what it literally means. Now, if what the name means is off from how you picture your character, I think that’s fine, but there is potential when developing a name to use its meaning in your book, if even it becoming a sort of “Easter egg” for readers to discover one day. My character Alex’s name means, “defender of man,” and I may or may not have put in a very subtle reference to this in my book, should anyone question me about it.

Another thing to consider is the name’s look on paper. I’d want the look of the name to please the eye and convey some sort of justice to the character. A character in my latest book’s name is “Hue.” Readers can guess that his real name is “Hugh,” but never once in my writing is that word written (Hue is his prefered nickname, and thus the way he introduces himself). I like the spelling and look of “Hue” better because I think the strangeness of it reflects the character, and the longer version leaves me with traits I don’t believe fit him.

Now, the way I find a name. I don’t help myself simply thinking of some names off the top of my head, so I like to look up a big list of names to the appropriate gender. After looking through many names, the first thing I’ll do is try and narrow down what I want the first letter of the name to be, then focus on a list of those names. With these names I’ll speak them out loud, maybe imagine them in context, and choose from there. At times I’ll ask my family members what traits come to mind when they hear a certain name in order to help me make the decision (i.e., what eye color do you think a Jack would have? Personality? What would he do in “this” situation?)

Of course, then we get into ironic names, such as a very interesting person named “Bill Smith,” but that’s another matter.


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