Tips For Naming Characters

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None of us got to choose the names we were given at birth. For some people, this infant’s gamble worked out swimmingly. Others, not so much.

One of the great parts of writing a story is getting to choose a character’s name after you know who that person will grow up to be. There are no mismatched names unless the writer chooses them.

A character’s name should represent them. That may seem obvious, but a name goes further than the series of characters that help us recognize who is the subject of a sentence or story.

Names in novels and stories should be indicative of their respective character’s personalities and styles. Think about what you expect from characters names “Zaxon” and “Delilah.” How do they act and what sort of world do they live in? Of course, you can create contrast by putting Delilah in very non-Delilah situations, but it needs to be a conscious decision or the reader will see through it.

How does it sound? Hard sounds are for hard people. Smooth sounds make smooth people and soft sounds make soft people. Find the overarching style of your character and match his or her name accordingly. Zaxon probably has a weapon he knows how to use. Delilah really listens to you when you speak. Read the names out loud and see how they sound.

If you want to add meaning to a character, research the roots of the name you’re thinking of using. Delilah is the name of the woman who seduced and killed Samson in the Bible’s Book of Judges. Does this background of the name fit with your character? It doesn’t have to, but it’s something to think about. Many names can be translated into something else, or have their roots in other languages. Taking a quick look at what your characters’ names mean may be a good practice.

At the end of the day, what’s most important in choosing a name is to go about it thoughtfully. Names that “sound cool” could mean something embarrassing mean researched.The name Damen, for instance, sounds like a rough, motorcycle ridding bad boy. In German, though, the word ‘damen’ means ‘ladies’. Names that don’t fit with their character can create a dissonance that will throw the reader off.

Names are often one of the first introductory bits of information we have about new people and one of the first blocks we use to build the image we have about that new person. The same goes for our stories’ characters.

Good luck naming your creations and never stop writing.

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