Frodo Baggins. Hermione Granger. Elizabeth Bennet. Daenerys Targaryen. A good character name is both unique and memorable at the same time.
Sometimes, as a writer, you meet a character and he or she tells you his or her name instantly. That’s how it was with the shero in my current WIP–Katrina St. George. I knew her name immediately. But some characters don’t reveal their names right away. It takes a little digging. One of my characters was Elspeth (a placeholder name); then she was Celeste. Finally, she was Sabine. I knew as soon as I heard that last one that I’d found her true name.
How do you choose a character’s name? For me, part of it is writer’s instinct. A name either feels way off, not quite right, or like a perfect fit. Sometimes a character introduces herself immediately. Other times, he makes you wait a while—my current hero, Lucas, didn’t tell me his name right off the bat.
My first stopping place for choosing a name is the book “100,000+ Baby Names”—or, as I call it, “100,000+ Character Names.” It’s full of names from the traditional to the trendy, and it’s a perfect place to start a character name search. I also use the site BabyNames.com, which must be a popular stopover for writers, as it includes an article entitled “Naming Tips for Writers” on its homepage. It includes options to search by letter, by gender, or by origin, so it’s a helpful starting place if you’re looking for a name from a specific nationality (I use a lot of Irish, Welsh, or Scottish names, for example.) These options also offer an opportunity to consider name meanings, which some writers like to incorporate into their stories. (Giving a character who’s a soldier a name that means warrior, strength, or champion, for example.)
Sometimes, especially if we’re writing fantasy or science fiction, the name we’re looking for can’t be found in any baby-name book. (Bilbo Baggins and Daenerys Targaryen are obviously the authors’ own creations, for example.) But just because it’s a name we’ve made up doesn’t mean it can’t resonate with our readers and stick in their heads. Even a created name can and should be memorable.
Lastly, a Sunday ROW80 check-in…
1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 4,623 words in “The Phoenix Feather”—mostly in character backgrounds.
2.) Read four books on the craft/business of writing. 2/4. Finished reading “How to Market a Book” by Joanna Penn. Started reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress.
Social media goals
1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for every day except Thursday.
2.) Blog twice a week. Goal met.
3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Met for every day except Thursday.
1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 2/3.
2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. 4/5.
A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.
What about you? How do you come up with your character names? Does it ever take a while for a character to reveal his or her true name? Have you invented any names for your characters? Do you consider name meanings when choosing character monikers?