How do you choose a name? Do you put down the first name that pops into your mind? Initially that’s what I used to do, until someone pointed out to me that there are a few things to take into consideration when choosing a name…
1. You Have To Be Comfortable With It
We associate names with people we know. If you like a certain name but know and dislike a person who bears it, will you feel comfortable using that name in your story?
Will you mentally shut that person out or will you be reminded of them each time you type that name?
Our characters have to be likable to us before they can become likeable to our readers. Will your dislike for that person transfer to your character?
2. It Must Be Easy To Pronounce
The English language can be, at times, misleading. How many words, and even names we spell one way and pronounce another? If the name you have chosen falls into this category, will your readers know how to pronounce it?
For years I use to pronounce the beautiful name ‘Sean’ exactly how it’s written ‘Seen,’ when it’s pronounced by the much nicer sounding ‘Shorn.’ Will the name you choose bear the same problem?
If you choose a difficult pronouncing name for your character and worse, one that’s not widely known, you stand to lose the effect of that name. A beautiful sounding name can be utterly destroyed if your reader doesn’t know how to pronounce it.
Your story has to flow. If the name you’ve chosen is not easy to pronounce, the readers will constantly stop each time they come across it. This will disrupt the flow of your story.
3. Foreign Sounding Names
The same as the above applies to foreign sounding names. They must be easy to pronounce. Consider the following:
These names sound exotic but they don’t exactly roll off the tongue. Should you compromise the flow of the story for the sake of a name?
4. Does The Name Suit Your Character?
Not all names suit all people and not all names will suit all characters. Like clothing and hairstyles, names go out of fashion too.
Let’s say your heroine is a lively, upbeat, modern lady. Will it suit her type of personality if we choose the name ‘Mabel’? ‘Mabel’ we usually associate with an elderly aunt or grandmother.
What about your hero? Let’s say he’s a young man who possesses a powerful personality. Will the name ‘Hubert?’ suit him? ‘Hubert’ would suit an elderly character or perhaps a ‘quiet’ character.
5. They Shouldn’t Start With The Same Letter
If you’re going to have two main characters in your story and their names start with the same letter, it will read a little awkwardly.
David and Debra
Sam and Sue
George and Gina
Like we carefully choose the first name for our characters, we have to be careful when selecting their surnames. Just like first names, there are certain surnames, which sound better than others.
When selecting a surname, make sure it has a pleasant ring, when used with the first name. Using names, which rhyme like, Jeff Jefferson, sound amusing. If this is the effect you wish to create then using it is fine.
7. Stereotype Names
Are you thinking of naming your character Adolph or Judas? There’s nothing wrong with these names, except for the fact that we tend to associate them with that single person in history who bore them. Will your reader trust your hero if you name him Judas?
8. Famous Names
I recall a quote I once read which went something like this…
“Nothing grows under the shade of a tree.”
If you name your character Elvis, Madonna etc.. Will your character be able to outshine the ultra famous person of whom the world knows? I doubt it.
When naming characters there are also a few other points to consider…
Naming them will not only depend on what kind of people they are, but who their parents or guardians were (if the parents or guardians play some sort of role in your story). After all, we don’t name ourselves, do we? So take into consideration the following…
1) What kind of people are the parents?
a) Free spirited?
Unusual names will rank highly amongst people like this.
The seasons of the year
Or perhaps a month in the year
Or an object
These types of people tend to use the full name rather than an abbreviated version of it.
Kathleen instead of Kat
Michael instead of Mike
2) What Is The Parents/Guardians Nationality?
If they’re traditional, they will choose a name, which is popular in their country. Also, traditional parents/guardians tend to give their children the names of their own parents or other relatives.
Look at the name you chose for your main characters. Does the name suit them?
© Nick Vernon
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