Friday, June 20, 2014

How To Come Up With A Great Name For Your Character

     We've all been there as writers. You have just outlined this amazing character - you have their charming personality, looks, and favorite color planned out. But wait - you don't have a name for this character! And you just know that a name like Sally or Bob won't cut it. You need something extraordinarily unique. But what?

     There's a lot of ways to find that perfect name for your anxiously-awaiting character. 

  • Baby Naming Websites. Baby naming websites are an author's best friend. I'm being totally serious. You have hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of names, their meanings, and their origins at your disposal. Pretty cool, right? Often you can look up names that mean a certain thing (for example, my efforts to find names that mean "wolf" have led me to one of my most favorite names, Faolan), or you can peruse the names alphabetically to find one you like. Be sure you let your family know why you're on a website looking at baby names, though, or things could get awkward quickly. 
  • Think up names. Never underestimate the power of your own mind. Observe names of people you know or of characters from tv shows you watch. Use them. I actually used what was supposed to be a temporary name for one of my characters just so I could start writing about him and inserting him into scenes, and he ended up growing into the name so much that I never took it off of him.
  • String a bunch of random letters together. Jumble up some vowls and consonants, arrange them in a way that you think looks pretty, and voila! You've got some kind of unique fantasy name. This actually is one of my favorite ways to create names, because it's fun and you end up with a nice-sounding, cool-looking title for your character. Really, all you've got to do then is decide how you pronounce the name and then present it to your character.
     Okay, so now we've been over some satisfactory ways to find some nice namesakes for your fictional friends. There are some things you should consider while choosing a name, however. It's not always as easy as picking out the name and then slapping it onto your MC (that is, Main Character). Here are some questions you might wanna ask yourself during the choosing process.
  • What does the name mean? You don't always have to look at this aspect. It may not matter to you, but sometimes it's really useful. You can look at the meaning of a name to determine if it fits your character. For example, your MC might be smaller than most children/teens their age, so perhaps you would pick the name Tino (which means "small" or "tiny" in Italian) for said character. Probably the best example I can think of right now is the names from The Lion King and The Lion King 2. The lion ruler of the Pridelands, Simba, has a Swahili name that literally means "lion". Zira's name means "hate", which is fitting, considering she has kept so much anger and bitterness inside her against Simba and his pride. 
  • Does the name fit my character's status in my book? This sounds more confusing than it is. Basically, if your MC is of a royal bloodline, don't name him something unrefined like Joe (not that I have anything against that name). If he is a prince/king, name him something along the lines of Jonathan or William. If your MC is a princess/queen, name her Genevieve or Cassandra. However, not all names have to be more than five letters to be a stately name. Sometimes simple, although elegant names work well too (Ex: Susan, Rose, or John are all suitable names for royalty). 
  • What does the name mean, if anything, to my character? Whether the name you choose means something specific in our world, you must also find what it means to your character. A name I chose for a character means "lioness", which fits perfectly with her personality, but in my book it is supposed to mean "princess". Was your character named after a relative or someone that their parents knew (Harry Potter naming his kids Albus, Lily, and James)? Does their name mean something specific in their world? Did their parents name them this name because of circumstances surrounding the character's birth? Does a rebellious character's name mean "trouble" where he lives? Figure this out, because it's likely that you'll end up mentioning it in your novel.
     In short, names are important parts of your characters, and it's okay if you spend a long time trying to figure out the perfect alias for a character, whether major or minor. You wouldn't be the first. 

     So, how do YOU like finding names for characters? What are some cool names that you have found (whether on the internet or in a book or tv series or movie) that you really like? Got anything else to add? Do tell!

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