It’s that time of the week – Tuesday Discussion.
For those new to my blog, each week I post a topic (relevant to my WIP) and try to unravel the mysteries and perspectives of it. Last weeks post was How Do You Find Your Characters Voice? and this week’s post is:
How do you choose your characters name?
Choosing a character name for your novel is as pressure-filled as picking a name for a baby. It has to suit the character’s personality, names like Harry Potter, Holden Caulfield, and Stephanie Plum are memorable not just because of the amazing stories they navigate, but also because of these names “fit” those characters so well. You need a name that “fits” your character too.
Coming up with a great name for your characters is one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever complete as a fiction writer. On one hand, you don’t want to saddle your characters with ordinary, pedestrian names; and on the other, going too “creative” with your name choices can distract or even confuse your reader.
I use these two tips to get the characters name:
- Look at the meaning of the name. The name Caleb means “faithful” or “faithful dog,”. Some readers will know the name’s root meaning, but those who don’t might sense it. One name that always plays on my mind is Thorin Oakenshield. He used a shield of oak wood in the battle for Moria.
In my debut novel, ‘A Time of Stones,’ one of the protagonist’s name is Autumn. I chose that name because has a deep inner need for quiet, and a desire to understand and analyze the world they live in, and to learn the deeper truths.
- Speak them out loud. Your novel might become an audiobook or an e-book with text-to-speech enabled. A perfectly good name on paper, may sound unclear aloud. Make sure you check your vowels in the names, a common misunderstanding for fantasy names is the ae, ea, ie, ie, oa and ao.
Naming characters just right is a challenge, but give it some time and thought, and you’ll start to find the fun in it.
Is there any certain ways you choose your characters name?
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12 thoughts on “How Do You Choose Your Characters Name?”
A great way to find names for your characters is to mix names and surnames off of movie casting credits. It’s a mental game I have fun playing after watching a movie.
That’s a great idea! Thank you for sharing 😃
Excellent post. I too agree with the importance of character names. It’s gotta ‘fit.’ So true. I find myself giving temp names until I stumble upon a name that has meaning to me, or fits the character better. As I further the story, I’m learning more about the characters. So to me, this makes sense.
Thank you. My characters have grown into their names and it took a long time for me to find the names. I hope they help you for your next characters 😃
I love character names so much, and honestly, as a reader, character names can yank me out of a story. I’ve put stories down before because the names were just tedious and ridiculous (pro tip: if your characters, multiple, have 15-letter names that are hard to pronounce, you’ve lost me).
I used to go with meaning a lot when I was younger, but now I rely mostly on feeling. If I’m not sure about a name, I might bounce it off a few CPs or something to see what they think, but usually, I just have a feel if a name is right or not. I’ve also been known to change names before. For one whole draft, I had a character named Cayenne and I just was NOT a fan. So in the next draft, she became Caroline (went by Carol), and that felt MUCH more right. Same with a future character. Had him named Shameer and it wasn’t quite clicking, so his name has now become Ishaan, and it fits so much better for the character and in his family tree. 🙂
It has such a huge affect on your whole story! Names that are too long pull the reader out each time they try to pronounce it. Thank you for shedding light on that!
I’m glad it worked out for you in the end 😃
Great post. I love naming characters, and leaving little hints in their names. Often, they just come to me already named, and it feels too weird to change it, so I try to inject something into their surnames. My MC in my novel is called Nadia Needham, and she is homeless. The surname “Needham” translates to “needs home” which I think is kind of cute.
Loved this post, some great tips and advice!
That’s really cool and similar to the idea I was trying to convey. I love and hate naming characters but as a previous comment said, once you have he right name everything falls into place 😃
I dunno. Harry Potter is about as pedestrian as it gets, short of Harry Smith. And that’s sort of Rowling’s point. In a world of Albus & Aberforth Dumbledores, Minerva McGonagles, and Rubeus Hagrids, the pedestrian stands out as unusual, and connects with the audience.
Naming has always been my weak point as a writer (and dialogue).
Fortunately, for the last sixteen years I’ve been teaching and tutoring at a college in a diverse city. So, when in doubt, I sometimes raid my old rosters and tutoring center schedule for first and last names (careful to never use the real combinations). Works quite well for urban fantasy and other such modern, “real” world settings.
I think that’s why the pedestrian name Harry Potter works in Rowling’s world.
That’s a great idea for names in an urban fantasy world 😃
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