Good morning word warriors, I hope you’re having a royally wonderful weekend.
I seem to have a bit of a mini blog series going on about creating characters. Previously, I’ve discussed physical character traits and positive and negative personality traits. But today, I’m going to talk about choosing character names.
Personally, choosing character names is hit and miss for me. Some characters just come to me with a name already. Easy! But others don’t, and sometimes it can take a while before you pick out a name that you think really suits a character. Take a look at some of my thoughts on character naming below…
1. You don’t always need to be too clever
There is a lot of joy in reading a wonderful book and then discovering that the character names all match their personalities, their hidden secrets and their lives. Think Harry Potter for example, where almost every name has a deeper meaning. Especially Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, whose identities and secrets are heavily hinted at in their names. And I don’t disagree with doing this. I think it is a wonderful, clever insight especially in fantasy stories. However, you don’t always need to be too clever. Your character can be called “Rachael” simply because that’s the name that you’ve chosen. There doesn’t need to be a secret or clever reason for this. Just use the names that feel and sound right to you.
2. Use baby name books
When I was a young teenager a friend once asked why I had a baby name book on my desk in my bedroom. She was a little surprised that 13 year old me may already be picking out baby names. But I wasn’t! It was all for my novel writing. Baby name books are a great way to find inspiration. They have lists and lists, meaning you may find the perfect name that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. For those of you who do want the name meaning to be significant, baby name books usually include a meaning and origin too, which can be really helpful.
3. The importance of nicknames
Nicknames can play a really important part in defining characters, their personalities and their relationships. In fact in my current novel, my character has a nickname that is vital to the story, so much so that the story couldn’t work without it. (Ooooo, mysterious!)
But nicknames can do so much for a character. The people who use the nickname are probably going to be friends, family or a partner. Different people may have different nicknames or pet names for that person. And nicknames can also help readers understand little quirks or traits that your character embodies. (Though do note, not every character needs a nickname. You don’t want to make things too confusing or over the top.)
4. Consider pronunciation difficulties
This is particularly important if you are writing for children, who may struggle to pronounce names that are complicated or have unique spellings. If you’re going to use such names, offer an opportunity to ‘sound it out’ – but make sure it’s natural. I’m going to use Harry Potter as an example again here. Think of Hermione helping Krum at the Yule Ball, as his accent and language barrier means he can’t say her name properly. This was a great chance for J.K. to help readers who had struggled with Hermione’s name to know the true pronunciation.
Do you enjoy naming your characters? It’s one of my favourite processes, as it really makes them real and personable. Comment your thoughts below or contact me anytime if you’d like to discuss more.