Naming your characters can be one of the hardest parts of starting your story, and it’s understandable. Naming a character you create is just as serious as naming your child—if not more serious. But with these tips and tricks, soon you’ll be naming characters easy and on the fly.
Choosing a name for your character can be daunting. Some characters name themselves—Aubrey in SHATTER GIRL was always Aubrey. But for others, you might have to dive a little deeper. By following a few rules, you can start doing research for yourself.
You want the names of your characters to be memorable and distinct. You don’t want two characters with too similar names, and you want them to be something that fits them. Stay away from doubling up on character names that end in the same syllable—ie, if you have a character named Harry, don’t name another Larry. With memorable names, you also want to shy away from abnormal spellings (Aaleynah can just be named Elena, I promise). For a specific example, a character named LaRynn I completely ignored, and she’s forever Lauren.
Give your names meaning. This can be a fun challenge, especially in fantasy novels, when you don’t want to be too obvious in your foreshadowing. A woman who controls fire can be appropriately named Eliane (meaning sun) or Kenna (meaning born of fire). By researching name meanings, you can find unique names that fit your character.
On meanings and research, you also want to make sure that the name you’re choosing fits the time period of the story, and the name and age of the character. You wouldn’t name a male character in an Arabic-based fantasy Chad. Also names that go in and out of style are important factors. A name popular now might not have even existed in the 90s when your character was born.
Keep in mind pronunciation and nicknames. Names that are difficult to pronounce, even with a guide, are typically names readers will pass over and not recall. It is also important to be very conservative with nicknames, as too many names will also confuse to your readers.
So how to find these names? My favorite resources are baby name websites (Nameberry comes to mind, but you can Google to find the one you like best!) and online name generators. There are great generators for fantasy names as well.
My biggest writing tip is to keep a list of names (and possibly their meanings) in your phone, adding to it as you come across names in life. Sometimes a character in a movie or show has a name that resonates with you, or maybe you like a specific last name on a Wikipedia page. Save it. Write it down. When I worked in the medical field, I would write first or last names of patients I liked—this is how Yarisleidy in SHATTER GIRL got her name. Another example is that Aubrey’s last name (Vestergaard) came from a mobile app called BitLife.
Names are one of the most important steps to creating a new, fleshed out character and now you have tons of ideas and resources to help you out.
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