Apr 25, 2008

What's in a Name?

Names are important. Think about Rumpelstiltskin. Do you think the story would be the same if his name were something simple like John?

Have you ever had a character's name picked out and as you're writing, something about it just bugs you? For some reason it doesn't fit? If you think about it, you've probably met real people who's names don't seem to fit either, and wondered, what were their parents thinking?
I've been reading about naming characters and below are a few pointers I've picked up along the way:
- Have your characters' names start with different letters, unless there is a specific reason not to.
- If your characters' names have a different number of syllables, they will be more easily distinguished from one another.
- Give your main characters more unique names (but not too unique) and your secondary characters more common names so your main characters will stand out.
- Names can suggest ethnicity and open up all kinds of character possibilities.
- Avoid names that end in 's'. They are awkward in the possessive form.
- Use names that fit the period you are writing about.
- Avoid unusual spellings.
- When making up names, make sure they are easy to pronounce. You don't want your reader to stop and struggle every time they see it.
Your character's name is a very important part of who they are, but don't stress about it. Give them a name and if it doesn't feel right, you can change it later.
There are tons of places on the internet you can search for names. Writingworld.com has a large list of links you can check out the next time you find yourself struggling to think of the perfect name.


Rachelle said...

Great ideas! I've been thinking about changing one of my character names in a past manuscript. I just might have to do it now. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

I also enjoy thumbing through baby name books to come up with character names. Or reading credits on the end of television shows or movies.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I like to go through my old yearbooks and name my bad guys after people I didn't like. :)

Actually I've found the yearbook thing to be helpful because, like you said, we often associate a name with someone we know. So I will thumb through my yearbook looking for people who had similar characteristics as my characters. It actually works pretty well.

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