I thought I’d write about something I tend to struggle with when I write – naming my characters. I can almost always name one of the main characters immediately, but the other one haunts me. I can never find quite the right name, so I thought I’d pass along a few of the tips I’ve picked up.
1 – Your character’s name should be unique – to a point. You don’t want your character– Mike, for example – confused with every other Mike in fiction.
2 – There is such a thing as too unique. People need to be able to pronounce the name – the obvious exception to this is Sci-fi and fantasy. You also don’t want a name that is so bizarre that people can’t remember it – Coffee Table Darling. (I honestly knew someone who wanted to name their daughter that)
3 – Use a combination of unique and common names – You probably won’t find a group of friends named Leila, Antoinette, Magnus and Caesar. But you might find a Leila who’s friends with Mike from example one
4 – Consider the meaning of the name – is there a feeling you want to convey? Certain names provoke certain thoughts or feelings in people. Say the name Courtney and people think of a popular, pretty, outgoing girl. If your female lead is a shy, quiet girl who reads a lot, you might be better off with Sarah.
5 – Consider nicknames. Most people who are familiar with one another use a nickname or pet name. My oldest daughter’s name is Jocelyn. I call her, alternately, Jocie, Jocie Mae, Jocie Mae Mae, J-dog, Squirrel bait, Squidge, Shoshie, J, Shashaeen, Bunny and Bun bun. Maybe that’s excessive, but how boring would it be if I always called her Jocelyn?
6 – Certain names come with built in reputations: Adolf, Oprah, Madonna, Fidel, Scarlett etc. Before you rush to choose the name of your favorite pop star, consider their reputation – does it line up with what you want for your character?
I think that covers the basics. If there’s something that I missed, or if you have a question or something to add, hit that little comment button below!