Hello Bookish Folk!
Time and time again I’ve come across the following in writing groups:
- How do you name characters?
- Where do you find character names?
- Character naming is hard.
I thought I’d put together a post with all of my tips in case someone asks again 😉
- Be mindful of genre – A fantasy story involving elves won’t have names similar to a romantic comedy.
- What era is your book set in? – I’ve seen current popular baby names in books, but these characters are between 18-30 years old. Some of these names weren’t even known back when these characters were babies. Similarly, if you’re writing something set in the Victorian Era, then your character names should coincide.
- Different Initials for Different Characters – It tends to get confusing when you name two main characters or even a supporting one with similar first name initials or similar sounding names. Eg. Jason & Jacob
- Ethnicity/Origin – If you wish to diversify your cast, you need to name them accordingly. Some research can help you decide on a suitable name. If you’re like me and write diverse characters but the book isn’t based on their diversity, a particular name can help the reader gain an idea of what your character looks like.
- Special Meanings – Sometimes you want to name your character according to the theme of your book. A perfect example is the cast from the Lunar Chronicles. Wolf. who is a werewolf is called Wolf. Some names can give meaning to your story as well. And not just in fantasy but in contemporary. Names like Hope, Faith, Harmony also have underlying meanings to the plot. Another example could be Holly or Eve for a Christmas themed novel.
- Name Check – Most names are more common than you think. If this in some way bothers you, do a name search in google. It’s recommended to avoid name association. However, with common names like John Smith you’re bound to come across in abundance.
- Names that are easy to pronounce – I have a different opinion here because I do like to write people of different ethnicities and cultures. My suggestion, or what I’d do is to include a pronunciation guide at the front or back of your book. Maybe even a little definition or origin information depending on the kind of book you’re writing. Again if you’re writing fantasy, names that are hard to pronounce are inevitable. So don’t let that deter you from naming your character.
Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by and if you have more tips on naming characters, please comment them down below.