Friday, May 30, 2014

Picking the Right Character Names

A character name is not chosen randomly. It has to be carefully picked in a way that suits the character's personality, and it should make sense for the era, location and culture. Some helpful tips for choosing such a name can be found below:



1. Look for root meanings.

As stated by Brian A. Klems, "it's better to call a character Caleb, which means "faithful" or "faithful dog," than to overkill it by naming him Loyal or Goodman-unless you want that for comic/ironic purposes. Some readers will know the name's root meaning, but those who don't might sense it."
Also, if your character enjoys gardening or is as beautiful as a flower or something likewise, would you really call her "Flower"? Wouldn't you rather go for something with the same implications, like Rose, Linnea, Sage, or Dahlia?

2. Check whether the name makes sense for your era, place and culture.

This rule is an easy one, but don't overlook it or the character might not have the same power over the reader. The character might become less real or memorable if not following this one step. When writing a story of past times or ancient cultures, for example, don't give your character a modern name - like Xandra or Zoe - but actually choose an old name - like Agatha or Atia. Make sure the name makes sense for the time period you have in mind, and also for the culture.


3. Speak the name out loud.

Speak your names. They may come to live, or they may not. Depending on how they sound you may choose to keep them or change them to something more fit. This same strategy can work for editing your story: does a certain sentence or paragraph sound right when read out loud?

4. Use Variety.

Finally found all the names that fit the characters and time? Make sure the names don't all sound the same or your effort is lost immediately. If all a character names sound the same, the reader might get lost and simply put down the book without even reading the story. If you have Maria, Mary, and Mara, there's a problem. Remember: different first initials, different syllable-counts, etc.

5. Careful!

Don't use names like Adolf, Oprah, or any other name that is well-known for either good or bad purposes... your character will automatically be compared to these people, so I'm sure you'll understand my point here...

6. Alliteration.


Want to draw special attention to one or more of the characters? Use alliteration to construct their names. Like Severus Snap in Harry Potter, the names will be more memorable.


The above are not the world's best tips of character naming, but I hope they will give you a basic idea. If you have more tips, please leave them as a comment below.


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