Naming your characters can be a job as difficult and head-boggling as devising the plot, or the theme, or the overall character development. The names need to be accurate, suit the character’s personality and setting in both time and space. You need names as awesome as Gandalf the grey/white, Jon Snow, or Peter Pan. No matter how much you want those names, you can’t take them and thus have to come up with your own that could strike the readers even at a single glance. What is the key to choosing the perfect names for your characters? In this article I’m going to enumerate certain things that you should keep in mind while choosing a name for your characters.
- Relevance with time and space: It goes without saying that the names should match up with the era and the setting of your storyline. For example, no matter how nicely Jess fits a character born in modern US, this name wouldn’t work out for a character born in England in the 17th century. Similarly, a name like Shankar (an alias for Indian deity Shiva) would suit a character from an Indian community quite well, but never an Italy-born bread maker who has no connection with India whatsoever.
- Root meaning: Few names have meanings, some well-known and other not too known. For example, if your character is a strong, powerful male, you might find it fitting to name him Bryant, rather than calling him Mighty or Superstrong, unless it’s meant as an alias to a character with supernatural powers, or in an ironical way.
- Use of variations: Sometimes what some novice writers do is use a single name to vary and form different names around it. For example, there are Eric, Edric, Erik and Erick in the same story. Now, it might save a lot of time and pain off you, however, it hinders your creativity and leaves a not-so-good impression over your readers.
Unless you’re writing an epic like Tolkein’s Middle Earth books, or Martin’s A song of ice and fire, where you can use any number of characters with same or similar name and no one would notice, it is better to take the pain of finding out new and creative names for your characters.
It is recommended that you use different initials for different character’s name, perhaps using all the alphabets at random, and also vary the size of the number of syllable for creating diversity.
- Keep the names easy to pronounce: You must take care that your names are not impossible to pronounce. Keeping a name that only you can pronounce appropriately is a turn off, and reader may never find themselves attached to that character. Agreed that new and innovative names build interest in the minds of readers, overdoing that is equally hazardous. For example, if you name your character as Vaehrhaliux, it might seem different and attractive at first, but soon it would lose its charm over the difficulty to pronounce it again and again. Alternately, if you decided to use such name, also keep an option to give that character an alias that could be used more frequently to address the character than its other name.
Also, before you finalize the name read it aloud a few times to see that it doesn’t create a difficulty or confusion. Note that your book might even be used as an audiobook, or, some reader might want to use the text-read facilities in certain software to listen to the book rather than read. A name like ‘Abraham Munro’ in those cases might prove to be a challenge as the listener might percept them as ‘Abraha Munro’ or ‘Abraham Unro.’ In fact, you might have to take part in many reading events of your own book, where if a name comes out in such confusing manner; it might not be good for your repute.
- Names shouldn’t hurt sentiments: Always check the names origins to see that using those names might not prove controversial or hurt sentiments of certain group of people. For example, if you name a half-wit character after the name of a deity from a certain religion, you might hurt sentiments of the people of those people, and it wouldn’t be good for both you and your book.
Remember that sometimes your character names might even have reciprocations on people’s life. For example, villain of your book gets quite famous and it shares name with a wide group of namesakes. Those people might get offended, or even teased by others because of that. To avoid such a situation it is better to give the negative characters only a partial name, like refer him by first name only, or the last name.
- Use of consonance: Assonant initials may convert your characters names magical at times. For example, names like Beric Gilbert and Gerard Brandon seems average, but if you make them Beric Brandon and Gerard Gilbert, an aura is added to the names to make them enchanted.
- Backgound search: It is a good habit to search your names before giving them a go. Sometimes names might have a meaning in another language which may prove contradictory to your character’s traits. Or, alternately, they may not fit the needs of the character, like if you choose a Chinese name for an Indian character, it would highlight your ignorance and people might even reject the character. So, check the relevance of the names before putting them in your story.
So, now you know how to name your characters appropriate and fascinating names. What are you waiting for?