5 Tips To Help Name Your Characters

By on March 9, 2016
5 Tips To Help Name Your Characters - Writer's Life.org

You have a great character in your head, in fact, you can imagine them so well you can easily picture their face, what they wear, how they move and speak. But what on earth should you call them?

While some character names might simply come to you in a moment of sheer genius, others can be tougher to come up with and you can spend hours/ days/ weeks deliberating over them. This is no bad thing. It is actually well with taking your time, doing some research and considering your character names carefully. Not only must it suit how the character behaves in the novel, but also must hint at what kind of person they are, right from the outset.

In my new book, ‘Doctor Vanilla’s Sunflowers’ for example, I named the 'evil' character ‘Doctor Vanilla.’ Not only does this hint that he is wicked from his name reminding the readers of the word ‘villain,’ but also the sweetness you would associate with ‘vanilla’ provides a striking contrast to the characters actions.

Memorable character names may seem hard to come up with, but in fact, there are some rules and tricks which can help you find the perfect ones for your book.

1.Check their meanings

Clever character names can be conjured by finding out what they mean. Most names come with connotations, be it religious ones or in terms of language, if a name is derived from Latin or Hebrew for example. Sometimes choosing such a name gives the subtlest hint of a characters personality, and even those who don’t know the meaning exactly will get a sense of it anyway.

2. Say it aloud

Just as you may well read passages from your book out loud to see how they sound, or run through the dialogue as if you were having an actual conversation, why not also say your characters names out loud too? In practical terms they want to be easily said aloud and pronounceable, particularly if your book is to become an audio book.

3. Check it's appropriate

Think about when your book is set. If you have chosen a particular era then make sure your characters names are appropriate for it. If you book is set in the 1920’s your character is unlikely to be called ‘Zuri’ or ‘Axel’. Make sure your character names are believable and realistic for that time, otherwise they just won’t sit right with the reader from the outset.

4. Vary the names you use

Make sure your characters stand out from one another. If you use names that are similar, i.e. Jane Smith, Tom Banks, Tim Hunt, none of them will stand out or stick in your readers mind. Use different initials, and lengths, to provide contrast and make your characters more interesting. Using alliterative initials also works well as these names stick in our heads and can be used to convey the character’s personality. Drake Diamond, Lucy Lee, Samantha Saucer - these names all immediately conjure a picture in your mind of what that person might be like.

5. Check, check and check again

One of the brilliant things about choosing character names is that they are really easy to change. So if you aren’t certain that one works, stick with it, ask people’s opinions, play around with it, and if you want to change it later then you can!

Finding great names for the characters in your book can be difficult. However these 5 tips will help make the process easier, and dare I say, even fun? And once you have found that perfect name for your character it will feel as though a weight has been lifted from your shoulders!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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