Posted in Fiction

Character Names

What’s in a name? When we name our kids, we want to make sure we give him or her the right name. We want it to mean something. We want it to sound right. Maybe the child will be named after someone we admire? The process can be very simple or it can be long and tedious. The same can be said for story characters. I believe this is especially true for story characters.

In my novel The Triunix of Time my main character started out with the name Amanda. The antagonist started out with the name Dominick. Yes, I still laugh at that. At the time I named my main character I didn’t have a clear focus on where exactly my story line was going. I had an idea, but it wasn’t solid. Amanda was the only name that popped in my head at the time. It seemed like a nice name, so I chose it. Then, I realized I didn’t know how to take my story and carry it through to the end. I didn’t have a road map, and, because I didn’t have a road map, I didn’t have a clear focus about what my main character’s name should be. Yes, the two should go together, but in a way that blends. You don’t want to create a stereotype, so stay away from the name Biff for a tough guy. There are better names to give him that aren’t so obvious.

Since I needed to learn about story structure, I put my manuscript down for a while and did some research. In my research, I discovered the three act structure. I won’t go into the particulars on this. That’s for another post entirely. I delved into this structure and learned everything about it. I focused on what types of information and scenes are placed into each act. Once I learned this, I had a road map for my story. THEN, I picked it back up, I wrote my ideas into a journal. I brainstormed and visualized, and right in the middle of it all I also realized my main character’s name had to change.

I deleted the name Amanda and went on Google. BUT, I didn’t just look at names to look at names. What I did was look at names and their meanings. I wanted to choose a name that meshed with my main character’s goal and who she was as a person. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without knowing what the story was going to be. I needed to have that first. As it turned out, I did something VERY unique with her name. I’d tell you but that would give away part of the story.

My antagonist I worked much the same way. I needed to know what his motivations were. He was a bad guy but that’s all I knew. At first I gave him the name of Dominick. Here again, this was before I had a clear story line, so I was stuck. Once I learned story structure, I had a name for him; a nick name. It isn’t until later in the story that I dubbed him with a regular name outside of the nick name. (Laughing) He wasn’t happy with me either. I didn’t care. It worked and he was stuck with it. Here again, his nick name and his regular name also meshes with the story line.

So, give some real thought about your character’s names. Research and know your story. Jot down notes here and there that you can refer to later if you need to. Enjoy the process.

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