10 steps to naming your character perfectly
If you don’t think about it, naming your character will not even strike you as a problem. You’ll get on with the writing, the way you do and sooner or later you’ll be done. But if you do, then you’re in trouble. The minute you start thinking about it you realize how very important the name is. How all in god’s green earth, is in the very name and it’s not even your name. It’s the name of your character, the one that puts the pillars in your story. It’s the name of your illegitimate child, the one you’ll be remembered for. So what’s it gonna be. Or more importantly, how will you get around the naming process?
- It’s easier naming something that already exists.
It’s wiser than you think to leave the naming for later. Use an ad hoc name if you need. Name the character after it has a form, after you’ve decided what your character’s favourite meal is. What they cry about to their best friend. What their most important memory is. What every memory is. You don’t necessarily have to wait for the end of the story. What you need to do is wait a while in order to understand the character for yourself.
- Special focus on the sir names.
This is not for all characters. This is not for most characters. But if you’re creating a character that tends to have layers. That appears differently to different people, it’s wise to have an ordinary name, with an out of the ordinary sir name. Or a name that itself represents duality and conflict in the nature. For e.g. the famous Anastasia Steele. The first name, reminds you of the Anastasia, heir to the Tsar Nicholas II. A parallel to victimization. But the sir name Steele makes you think of hidden resilience. Not something you could’ve seen coming. Think again of the name David Copperfield. David is the name of a king which makes you think of royalty and abundance. Copper-field makes you think of terrible working conditions and plight. And right there you have a character-sketch in a name.
- A story within a story.
Wouldn’t it make your character’s name undoubtedly endearing if the name has a kick-ass story behind it? You have to make a Cinder- Ella like story that doesn’t take forever to explain, that really goes the extra mile in getting your readers attached and sheds some light on the personality or background of the character.
- The vibe
If you’re looking for something that instantly creates the aura that you intend your character to have, you need to think of a name that is self-explanatory yet subtle. Even if you didn’t like the book, (and I didn’t) what do you think it is about the name Mr. Darcy? Why does the name make you think of mystery, darkness and something unattainable? Because that’s what it was supposed to do. The name is designed to give you ideas before the character itself can.
This is very important when writing short stories.
- Don’t name a character after yourself
There’s nothing wrong with it that I personally can think of besides this one. The act of naming your character after yourself is usually done in order to not have to go through the entire ordeal of naming a character right. It’s something people do because they are lazy. And writing is not a place where you can get away with being lazy. You have to work harder ‘intellectually’. So yeah, don’t name it after yourself because it shows just how much you care about the story that you are writing.
You can take the name of a character from someone else’s work. (Provided you give credit). The great Mariana of Tennyson was actually the Mariana of Shakespeare. And if they can do it, you can do it. Find a character you want to write about and then quit worrying if it isn’t a character you came up with.
- Have the details figured out
The ethnicity of the character is very important. And you should spend a little more time creating a believable link between the name and the appearance that you assign a character. You need to be well aware of the genre. You need to be very specific about the time period and the setting of your story. The name that you give to the character should align perfectly with everything else.
- Don’t use names that have been overused.
Even names can becomes unoriginal and cliché if they’ve been used too many times. If you read a book where the protagonist is called Elvis, you’ll forever be thinking of the cultural icon even if the book Elvis is a dentist with an ex-wife threatening to take his cat away along with everything else.
Come to think of it, naming a dentist Elvis could be a full-fledged satirical adventure. The cat could be Moriarty. (Read no. 6)
- Don’t even use a name
If you can’t come up with a name, it’s a sign that you get more creative. Think of a title like Marla The Tumor. Think of the legendary Robin Hood, Peter Pan. Think of something that reveals enough but the name. And maybe further down the story you give the character a name that seems feeble in comparison to the title. Isn’t that exactly what Voldemort did for himself? Vain but smart. Better yet, use initials. For e.g. O from the Story of O, M from James Bond and L from Death Note. Using Initials can help create a lot of mystery and become a perfect hint for a back story that you can unravel bit by bit.
- Name the characters after the people who inspired them
It’s only fair. If you’ve already decided that you’ll write about someone its makes perfect sense that the name be inspired from them as well. This is not always an honorary position. This is not always something you get permission for. Sometimes you’re outright being a dick. Not that there is a rule against it in writing. But you have to make sure you change a thing or two in the name so that you don’t wake up to a lawsuit. Great idea for another post. Stick around to find out.
featured image credit: Off to Neverland