Naming Your Characters

Day 14: #atozchallenge

When William Shakespeare’s Juliet discovered Romeo bore the name of her enemy, she asked:

NameWordle“What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

 I  respectfully disagree with Juliet. To me, a rose is a rose, is a rose, and I venture to say others feel the same. To call a rose by any another name would be nonsense.

We all have certain mindsets when it comes to names. For example, Billy Bob denotes an image far different than the name Randolph. Naming a child, Elizabeth Marie Kennedy Thornton (fictitious) makes us think privileged.

Names conjure memories both good and bad. Ever time I hear the name Gene I am once again in the 5th grade. Our brothers, sisters, or distance cousins all provide us a mental picture of a person. It’s from life experiences and the individuals that cross our paths in which we draw inspiration for naming the characters in our stories.

Important Points to Remember:

  • Match the name to the character’s personality. Channing is not likely to make readers think of a shy introvert.
  • Don’t get stuck on a letter. Sure it might be easier, but Carol, Cait, and Cami will make the readers head spin trying to tell the characters apart.
  • Assigning cute or unusual names is tricky. When done, the character’s personality must fit the name like a glove. The name, Apple, however, popular in Hollywood, is never going to make me think of anything other than a red delicious.
  • Tread carefully when naming a character based on someone you know. Get too close to the real thing and you might just have a family member on your back.

Helpful Resources for Naming Characters:

It isn’t always easy to come up with the right name, or one we think fits the character, but there are resources.

Naming characters can be fun or frustrating but don’t let it get in the way of telling your story. You can change names anytime, just write the story.

How do you choose the names of your characters?

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilagood, and Contently.

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28 thoughts on “Naming Your Characters

  1. Naming is a tough thing to do, and I completely agree that different names can’t be used for certain characters. For example, I chose the name Welty for an imaginary ogre character in my Middle Grade Fantasy book. Welty would not be the first name of a prince in a castle. Change it to Wesley and you’re good to go.

    Julianne
    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. I’ve changed a few of the names in my novel as well. sometimes you start out with one because the character reminds you of someone, but as you develop the character, it’s apparent the name doesn’t fit. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great points!

    Once I was traveling from SFO to meet my husband in Jakarta. I stopped at the airport bookstore and purchased a book that looked interesting. When I got on the plane I realized all the characters names were so similar I couldn’t follow what was going on. I tried and tried, but felt like I needed to take notes to keep things straight. I ended up giving up.

    Shelly @ http://hangryfork.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember trying to read “War and Peace” but could never get past all the names they had for themselves. It was way too confusing.
    You are right though, names have to really fit the character to work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really helpful post and I love the discussion as well. I ended up writing about this also for the AtoZ Challenge. One of my readers suggested adding a list of characters, especially helpful in historical fiction when sometimes it seems we have a cast of thousands! A helpful example can be found in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy. He creates a Cast of Characters and separates characters by country and then fictional and real historical personages (his words).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t agree more. Names are very important. Even going back to my days of playing Dungeons and Dragons, naming a character was an incredibly important thing. Great reminder of something that might seem so simple but can make or break a story.

    Liked by 1 person

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