A character’s name is not only the first decision you’ll make regarding their character background- it’s also probably one of the most important decisions. You want their name to have meaning and value. Sometimes you might want an average name, like Joe or Jane.
If you do want to go the more interesting route, please be careful. If you end up with something ridiculous, like Mirekendesworhten, your poor readers are going to want to cut out your tongue. (No offense to the Mirekendesworhtens of the world. Sorry.) You want the name to be awesome and easy to pronounce.
#1. Make sure the name has some sort of significance.
There’s so much more to a name than just, you know. A name. Names have power, they have meaning, and, especially in fictional realms, they should be important. In my opinion, there are three easy ways to make sure your name is significant:
1) Choose a name with a specific meaning that connects to your character.
If your character is smart, you might want to name her “Sophia,” which means wise. If your character is strong, you could name him “Andrew,” which means strong (and manly?) You might want to avoid names with contradictory meanings (ex. naming your villain “Conlan,” i.e. an Irish name that means “hero,” might not be the best idea.) You can use some awesome resources like babynames.com (although they will pop up with advice for pregnant women, which, unless you are a pregnant woman, is a little awkward.)
2) Choose a name that has a connection to someone in the character’s family.
Maybe your character is named “Mary Elizabeth,” after her mother and her grandmother. These names can be essential to her identity; perhaps she inherited a talent or trait from those women that are important parts of her character. (Like KNITTING. Knitting is a super awesome skill!!)
3. Give it significance in your character’s world.
If you have some sort of awesome fantasy world, (props to you), you can name your character after an item or person that already exists. For example, in Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, the main character was named Miri after a fictional flower that grew in the, well, fictional village. It provided symbolism and had significance in the story, too. Imagine that.
#2. Make sure it’s a name the readers can pronounce.
Again with the Mirekendesworhten issue. If you or your pet dragon can’t pronounce the name without it sounding like some sort of awful sneeze (gesundheit), you probably need to simplify it.* And if you really need that super cool name, at least give your character a simple nickname. For example, Mirekendesworhten could easily be called Mire.
Don’t be afraid to use nicknames for your character.
Nicknames are often not only easier to say and remember, but provide a sense of endearment and connection between your character and other characters in the story. They are an easy way to demonstrate affection and familiarity amongst your characters.
*If not, at least put a pronunciation guide in the back of your novel.
#3. Don’t use a name that’s widely associated with another franchise.
Sure, there are multiple Jasons and Sophies in the novel universe- what will it matter if you add another one? BUT you definitely don’t want to use Harry (unless it’s the famous wizard) or Edward (unless it’s the sparkling vampire).
Using a different name will help you out, too. If your novel becomes the next bestseller, then your cute little Mire will become an iconic name in the literary world. And he can chill with all the famous wizards and sparkling vampires. (If, you know. He’s into that sort of thing.)
Well, there you go! The short and sweet guide to character names, just how I like it! Do you have any other tips? Comment them below.
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