HOW TO NAME YOUR CHARACTER
I once had someone tell me that naming a character is the hardest part of planning a novel. I can see that, definitely. We all should know how personal a name is. It defines us, it speaks to our personality, it’s something we belong to, and connects us with others. So how do you name your character when they are a blank canvas?
Well, this is what I usually do. I find it difficult to name a character if I don’t know who they are. I ask myself ‘what if the name doesn’t fit him/her?’ A lot of the time, the name probably won’t. So I give them a mock name, then I get down and dirty by getting to know them on a personal level. Once I’ve done that, I ask myself if the mock name I chose fits. Most of the time it doesn’t, which is completely okay! So what do I do? I find a new one!
It may sound time-consuming but it isn’t at all. A character in your novel is just as important as your overall story, if not more. Your character is the person that your readers are going to connect with on an emotional level and think about long after they have finished reading. So you want to get them right.
Let’s check out how you do that!
WHERE TO FIND THE NAME
Luckily, these days we have access to the internet. Imagine those poor writers staring at their desks in the olden days racking their brains for the perfect name. We feel for you, guys.
Nowadays, however, we have more opportunities than they did. The most common way to find the perfect name is to google baby name sites. There are hundreds of them on the internet, with names you’ve never even heard of. There are also name generators that are more specific to your genre, such as fantasy, Be careful, though, because some of them can go a little over the top in my opinion. You want a name you can till pronounce.
Other ways of finding names, if you prefer to stray away from the internet and want a more traditional method of research, then you can use these:
- Last names in a phone book
- Names of people you went to school with
- Names in the newspaper
- Flipping through old books or comics
- Open an atlas to a random page
- Read through old census records
- Look through random books such as flowers
DOES IT FEEL RIGHT TO YOU?
This is an important one, my friends. Not only does the name have to feel right for your character, but it also has to feel right to you. At the end of the day, you are the writer and you are going to see this name almost every time you sit down to write. So how do you know if it feels right to you?
You just know. There’s no magical button that hovers over the name saying ‘PICK ME!’. This is what I do when I find names that feel right for a character. I grab the mighty notebook and a pen and jot them down. Usually, they’ll jump out at me and I get a sense of connection to the name. Then I rest on it. I don’t pick a name straight away from the list. I’ll occasionally come back to it and have a glance, find that I don’t like a name on their anymore and cross it off. This technique eventually results in me having a name for my character.
If I find that I narrow it down to two names, then I go and survey my family and ask them three questions:
- If you were reading a novel, which name would you connect with first?
- My character has ‘x’ features. Which name fits best to you?
- Which name is easier to read?
Eventually, you’ll pick the right one.
RELATED: How to Write a Novel Outline
Now, when I say dig deeper I don’t mean go looking for more names. If you have found a name/s that fits with your character, you can do a little more research to make you feel 100% sure that this name is the best fit for them.
I don’t mean the perfect name either, rarely you will find that. I am talking about the right name. To do that, you can jump on the helpful internet and look up the meaning of the name/s you have singled out for this character. You can also find out its origin, how many people in the world have this name, whether it is for a boy/girl/both, etc.
You may find that you love the name but the meaning doesn’t fit. My tip for you though is to not overthink it. If the meaning fits, then great! You actually found the perfect name. If the meaning doesn’t, however, and you aren’t really focusing on the underlining’s of the name, then don’t worry about it. If you like it, and think it fits, then go for it!
All finished. Let’s chat!
Congrats, fellow writers. Choosing a name for your characters is not easy, but with a little time and getting to know them, you’ll find the right match. Let me know if my HOW TO NAME YOUR CHARACTER helped, and if you think there is anything missing that you would like to learn about.
Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!