How to choose the best name for your character

A name is very important to your reader. Names, first and last, define a character enabling the reader to envision the character. 

Do you struggle with selecting a cool name?

I do! Every time I sit down to develop a new character, I struggle.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about selecting the best name.  I’ve tried name generators and had mixed results. On rare occasions, a name comes to me and just fits. You know what I mean?

Other times as with the antagonist in my current WIP, selecting a name is a major pain in my ass. I’ve changed her name a dozen times or so it seems. Her name still doesn’t work for me. At times I’ve called her Madame X just so I could get a scene down. Come to think of it Madame X, hmm. No, definitely not.

I recently received a newsletter with a video about this very subject. And as usual, I learned something new.  This video is so good, I watched it three times. So I decided to share.

Here are the tips I gleaned from Chris Fox.

Start with an adjective that describes the character.

  • Short or tall?
  • Fat or slim?
  • Little/small?
  • Rugged or polished?
  • Young/old?

Next, add color.

  • Black, or white?
  • Pale or tanned?
  • Red
  • Dark /light

Combine these attributes with a noun that describes temperament or appearance. Such as…

  • Beard
  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Mad
  • Hateful
  • Funny
  • Humble

Or combine with social status.

  • Baker
  • Politician
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Knight
  • Farmer
  • Blacksmith
  • Social climber

Or combine with the region they’re from. A city, wealthy, and well-educated or a person from Europe, may have a longer first name. If they are from a small town their name is more often as not a shortened version or nickname.

  • City (highrise, small apartment)
  • Small town (suburban house)
  • Farm
  • Northern city/town
  • Southern city/town
  • Swamp
  • Mountains/beach
  • France
  • Africa
  • Italy
  • Ireland

A name comes from 4 primary categories.

  1. Patronymic: a name derived from that of the father or a paternal ancestor usually by the addition of an affix
  2. Locative: If a person from a certain region, or country, you may want to anglicize a name or translate to a different language. Google translate is great for this.
  3. Socioeconomic/Job title/status: of, relating to or involving a combination of social and economic factors
  4. Nicknames:  a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place, or thing, for affection or ridicule
    1. Looks, behavior often attributed to this name.

My tip: What finally helped me select the perfect name for my antagonist?

Google! After using these suggestions I came up with two or three I liked. Then I Googled the meanings of each. Voila! Found what I needed.

At last, I settled on Margo Richardson for my troublemaker.

Question: 

How do you select your characters name?

Want another great website to find a cool name?

Try13 Ideas for Creating Cool Character Names

For your watching pleasure…

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Unique, beautiful or strange; how do you select the best name?

Naming characters can be hard. Is for me. I worry over them like newborn babes.

So…

Just how important is choosing the right name?

Turns out very! That is if you want to write memorable characters. No writer wants their readers to go whats-his-name killed whois.No, we want our characters to come alive on paper. Well, how do we select really good names? I don’t know all the answers but Anne R. Allen wrote a post…

10 Tips for Finding Memorable Character Names for your Fiction

In her post, she gives us ten things to consider when selecting names.

  1. Name only star players.
    • I love this tip. A delivery guy is just a delivery guy.
  2. Don’t confuse readers with same sounding names.
  3. Don’t change names in the middle of the story.
    • Nickname? State it up front and go with it. I need to give this some thought.
  4. Make sure the name fits the century.
  5. Check the spelling and name is familiar in the country, state you’re writing about.
  6. Don’t make up fake names unless writing fantasy.
    • Only works for fake worlds.
  7. Run your chosen names through Google.
    • Good advice. Don’t want the name to be a real person living around the corner.
  8. Avoid overused names.
    • Hmm, may have a problem here. Got work to do.
  9. Try name generators.
    • I like Scrivener generator but there are several on the web.
    • Check the obituaries for a cool name.
  10. If you decide to change a name mid-stride of your WIP, do a search and replace to catch each one.

I believer her tips could also apply to places.

Click on Anne’s link above and read her entire post, she gives a lot more information and a few great resource links.

Well? What did you think?

Do you need to change a characters name?

Think you are better prepared to select a name?

Do you have any good tips to share for picking the perfect name?

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