Monday, November 24, 2014

How to name your book characters

The process of naming your characters in your story can be as daunting as naming your own child. You want the name to be fitting, yet not dull (unless dull suits your character). Generally, the first name of my characters comes fairly easily as I imagine their personality (strengths and weaknesses). I bounce through 4 or 5 names until one settles. But the last name is more of a process as it can also be used as a nickname or show family origin. Names hold a lot of weight, no doubt.

Have you ever read a book where the protagonist's name didn't seem to fit?  It's too flowery for the character, too strong, too hard to pronounce, or just plain too strange. It can be distracting to the point of pulling the reader from the story every time they come across the name. Not good.

One "trick" I use is paying attention to the names at the end of movies. All the names, not just the stars. There are a wealth of names scrolling up the screen after a film that are fantastic possibilities. I take note of a few that jump out and file them for future reference, or use them right away if I happen to be in need.

Whatever your method of name-finding, the key is to be sure the name isn't just a pretty or sexy name, but that it fits the character in every way. You probably wouldn't, for example, give a reserved bank teller from a traditional family and background the name Justice Jakes (female) or Rambo Drake (male), right? No, you'd stick closer to Jane Johnson or William James, or something along those lines (though maybe not quite that basic).

Though there is more work in naming a character than just slapping them with anything that comes to mind without further thought, do remember there isn't only ONE possible name that will work for each character. You'll likely find a few that would work, so just pick the one that grabs you the most and go with it.

For further information and insight, here are a few links to some sites I've found that offer more tips on the subject.

Best of luck finding what works for you, and happy naming!