Stand-alones: Tips and Advice

Naming Your Characters

Hello, reader, and welcome (back) to Writer Central!

Today I’m covering a topic that most people stress about so much more than they should – and that’s naming characters.

I agree that naming characters is hard.  It’s almost like naming your infant, except you know a lot more about the personality of the character in question than you do about your newborn.

It’s still difficult to find the perfect name, though.  I usually make up names of my own by sounding out consonants until I have the “perfect” name.  I also use baby naming sites, finding names there, or sometimes just looking for short names that I can add more to, to make it unique to my story.

Below I’ve compiled a list of seven tips that you’ll want to consider when giving your character a good name.

  1. It should fit the character’s parents’ personalities, not necessarily yours or theirs.  You might be thinking, “what! Why should it fit their parents’ personalities, and not theirs?!”  Well, because, in the fictional world, their parents – or maybe, in unusual circumstances, someone else – would have named them.  So their name should reflect the style of the person naming them, not the character.  Think to naming your character something that their parents actually would name them.  If their parents are rich and snobby, their kid might be named Pamela or Francisco (no offense at all intended to people with those names, of course!).  If the parents are poor peasants, they might choose something a little less fancy.
  2. The setting should be taken into consideration.  Does the character live on Earth, or somewhere else, like Mars, or a fantasy world invented completely by your own head?  Does the character live in a culture where, for example, names play a big part in the community?  Consider all these little details, because I promise that they’re important.
  3. The sex of the character, of course, plays an obvious role here.  I say “sex” instead of “gender” because the former means the sexuality the person was born with, and the gender is what they’re considered to be.  Sex is usually what they are at birth.  Now, there’s a large handful of words that are unisex, but some are more feminine/masculine than others.  Obviously, you’ll want to try to keep these two categories separated to fit the genders they belong to.  Otherwise, this could lead to some confusion for your reader.
  4. When naming, don’t repeat letters.  By this, I mean try to choose a variety between the letters your characters’ names start with.  Avoid giving two characters names starting with, say, L.  And please don’t name them anything with the same first and second numbers, like La….  Also, try to avoid using a lot of one letter in the same name.  I know I do this with N’s, where every name I like seems to have an N in it.  I notice that this gives my characters’ names similar sounds when spoken outwardly.
  5. Don’t rhyme names, or use names that are generally too similar to each other.  This definitely relates back to the last step.  Basically, don’t name two of your characters Fred and Ted.  (Unless they’re twins, and you want it to sound cute or something, then go ahead, as long as you can pull it off.)  Readers will likely notice the rhyming and, if they’re anything like me, it will bug them for all eternity.
  6. Consider levels of difficulty in pronunciation and spelling.  Don’t use names that are too wacky.  I know that a lot of readers say words in their heads while reading in order to help pronounce something, and sometimes long names will be a burden to them.  If you have a character with a name that’s long, unusual, and/or intriguingly spelled, give them a nickname, or something that will help with that.  Which brings me to my last tip.
  7. Nicknames might be helpful if your names are unusual/weird.  If your character’s name is too long or hard to pronounce, give them a nickname that’s easier.  Nicknames can help display a character’s personality, if they gave themselves the name.  Nicknames can also display their relationships with other characters who give them these weird nicknames.

By now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “all these tips for the perfection of just one little word?!”  But this one little word is crucial to a large chunk of your story, which is your characters, especially characters that are your protagonists.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading!  If you have a question or idea, comment below, e-mail me, or contact me through social media!

Come back every Friday for new content!

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