Posted in Characterization

Character Names

How do you choose names for your characters? Do you merely assign them a name without giving much thought to it? Do you use a process? There are quite a few things one can do to assign names to their characters. I’ve used a baby names book. Looking names lists online works too. If your character is of another culture or country whose names are different than those used in your own, some baby names books have lists of common names used in different countries.

In one of my pieces of writing I used characters of 4 real life people. I asked them permission first. Please, if you are ever going to do this, ask that person or persons permission to use them in your book/story. When I was renaming these 4 people for my story, I tried to choose names that fit their personalities. Trust me, this wasn’t as easy as it may have appeared to be. One gentleman helped me with that, so that one was easy enough to put a name to. The other three took some thinking. I got my baby names book out and browsed male names. I thought of each person individually and then tried out a name on them. I went through several before settling on some that worked well and matched each of their personalities. There was only one problem. One of the guys I couldn’t think of a name for. At all. So I, for the time being, left his name alone and used his real name until I could think of one that suited him. FINALLY, after writing 25 chapters, I thought of the perfect name for him. Of course, I had to go back and change his name throughout the manuscript, but it was worth the wait.

Most often you’re not going to use real people. But the same thing still rings true. The people you make up will have personalities and you will have to choose a name that fits that personality. Also, if you are going to assign a name to a character that sounds funny or out of place, you might want to explain why they were given that name by making that part of your story. For example, if you give one of your female characters the name of Spunky Dickson (a funny name for a female anyway), have the character tell why her parents named her that. Maybe the whole story centers around that. Maybe Spunky is a nickname.

Have fun choosing names for your characters. Don’t make it a chore. Work with it and mold it into your story.

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.

Posted in Fiction

Names Can Be Hair Raising

Choosing a name for your fictional characters may appear easy first, and for your minor characters it most likely is. For me it was anyway. But for your major characters it can be time consuming (and maybe a little hair raising). That could depend on the author too. I had fun with this task even though it took quite a bit of time.

Things I considered when choosing a name for my characters are listed below. Please keep in mind not everyone will have the same ideas.

  • Character’s personality— It’s been my experience that names reflect a certain quality or personality trait of a person. But it does come down to personal choice. Would you want your hero to be named Melvin, Jack, Evan, or Bubba. I know, I know, we can run the risk of being stereotypical which is what you don’t want. See why this can be more difficult that you think?
  • What is their role in the story?— In other words the meaning of their name is directly connected to the story itself. In which case you will need to look at the meanings of names in addition to the names themselves. I found that by doing this, the name you choose won’t be so stereotypical.
  • Ethnic group— You have to know your character, their background, ethnicity, etc. If your character is Italian, maybe his/her parents wanted to stick with tradition and name them a name that’s traditionally Italian. On the other hand, maybe his/her parents wanted to break away from tradition and go with a French name instead of an Italian one. Bring that out in your story because by doing that it makes your character more real and stand out, which will bring about a connection with your readers.
  • Ask others for ideas— Just like in my last post. I employ my son’s assistance even with this. I had to change a character’s name toward the 3/4 mark of my book. But this time it was my daughter who was instrumental in this decision.

Make this task fun. I know, some things can be a chore if it takes to long. The trick is not to put too much pressure on yourself. There was a point in my book when I had to give my protagonist a title. I had absolutely no clue whatsoever what to give her. After racking my brain, I couldn’t come up with anything, I gave her a temporary title. I called her The One ( I still laugh at this). It worked though because, when I went back to it later (much later), I was able to give her the appropriate title of Triunifier. Relax your brain, write, and keep writing. The ideas are there. They just need coaxing to get them out.