A character’s name can literally make or break a story.
Of course, a good name can’t guarantee you have a decent story, but a bad name could make a reader want to throw your book into Tartarus.
No pressure or anything.
I also know that it can be hard to write about a character that you can’t find a proper name for. So today my post is about…
…A) Some tips for finding a good name and B) a few pieces of advice as to how to not annoy the reader. Both of these are essential (in my very unprofessional opinion).
Finding the Name
1) The right letter
If you have any idea what your character is like, this shouldn’t be too hard. Do you want their name to have a harsh sound? Try names like Tristan or Krysta or Astrid. Or do you want their name to have a softer sound? Like Celeana, Rowan or Annabeth (hint: names that end in A usually sound softer).
Another way to do this is to find a letter you know you want the name to start with. If you like names that start with M, then you’ve got a place to start.
If you don’t do one of these, it can be overwhelming to look for names.
2) Name Generators
Some of these work about as well as a teapot would. But there are some decent ones out there as well! I use these on occasion, although mostly for places\settings rather than for character names. They also work great at jump-starting your ideas.
I’m going to be honest: most of my name searches start with a google search something like “Girls names that start with [insert letter from step one]”. It’s convenient! And it also helps if you’re looking for more ethnic names. At the very least, it gives you a place to start.
4) Real-life inspiration
I’m not one to use the names of people I know for my main characters. A cameo? I might throw it in for fun. But if the character appears more than twice, I can’t use anyone I personally know.
BUT this doesn’t apply (for me) to internet friends\people I follow. More than once I’ve seen someone say “I wish I saw more character with my name” and so I write down the name somewhere (screenshots also work) and I’d say 8\10 times this is an easy and effective solution.
5) Literally just put letters together
This one can happen by accident, but if nothing else works then just pick a word and replace some of the letters with, like, and X or add an A on the end and it usually makes a pretty cool name.
Remember the Readers…
–Please don’t write names that are pronounced totally different than how they’re spelled. It makes it hard to remember and also it’s just plain confusing.
–Pronunciation guides save lives! If you have any control over this, then I promise the reader will be thanking you profusely.
–For both your sake and the sake of the reader, try not to use names of already beloved characters. For two reasons:
ONE, these names are often already overused. And TWO, the reader already has fond memories attached to this character. So if you use it, you’ll probably just be reminding the reader of a DIFFERENT book, which is beside the point.
Of course, most names are fine. But I would avoid 99% of what’s in the Harry Potter series, and also the name Simon because that one seems to just come up everywhere. Also Emma.
What are some of your favorite character names? What’s your way of finding the names for your characters?