Naming my characters is one of my most favorite parts of being a writer. You get to pick out the names of your best friends! (Some would say imaginary friends, but we know better 😉
Here are some things to consider when picking out the names for your characters:
- Age. What is the age of your character? If you do the research, at different times, different names were more popular than others. If you have a grandmother or grandfather in your story or some type of older character, make sure that their name fits into the time they would have been born and not the present time of your story.
- Gender. Yes, some names like Sam (Samantha) or Alex (Alexandra) do fall into the perhaps neutral zone of gender here. But overall, unless you really want your readers to be confused or it is part of your plot, stick with gender appropriate names.
- Time Period. This is a huge one and goes along with the age of your character too. Certain names were more popular at different time periods of history. Did you ever hear of someone called Amanda in Ancient Rome? Or a Sebastian in the 1920’s?
- Meaning. This is my favorite part of naming my characters! I love to try and match their personalities or what I have planned for them in the story with the meaning of their names. I like to use Behind the Name for ideas. It is my number 1 resource for name research and it’s a wealthy of knowledge!
- Ease of making the name into a nickname. Let me explain myself on this one. How easy is it to shorten your character’s name into a nickname if need be? If your character’s nickname is an important part of your story, you will want to pick a name that can be shortened to a nice sounding nickname.
- Believe-ablity. I am all for made-up names! But sometimes authors, especially younger or newer writers, like to come up with outlandish names that are hard to pronounce or remember. If you want your readers to stay interested, make sure to name your characters something that your readers can pronounce without looking it up! A character named Rachel can be just as interesting as a character name Rinawalda if your story is well-planned, thought out and written.
- Do you like it? The above being said, do your like your character’s name? Remember you are writing this story and you get to pick! 🙂
- Memorable. If your story is based on a certain character it might be a good idea to pick an interesting (but not too crazy!) name for them. You want your character to stick in your reader’s head and our names are what most people remember first. Pippi Longstocking is a good example 🙂
What about you? Do you have any good tips for naming characters?
2 thoughts on “Naming Your Characters”
Oooooh, I love names. They’re more important than we sometimes realize. A well-chosen name not only fits the character, but also the world (time period, culture, language, etc.) where that character lives. That’s especially true in historical and fantasy stories. In fact, I try to consider “naming schemes” or patterns during the worldbuilding phase. Because if the names don’t match the language / culture or seem like they were “picked out of a hat,” it can actually detract from the story. (I’ve had that experience a few times as a reader, so I try to avoid it in my own work.)
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I love names too, Sara! 🙂 I like your “naming scheme” idea.That’s a really good tip about making sure your character’s name fits into the world you have made for them. I like to compile a list of names at the beginning when I am outlining a story so I can refer to it if I need too. You never know when you might need a new name!
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