HOW TO CHOOSE A CHARACTER’S NAME
Choosing the names for your characters is so critical. Many of us spend so much time trying to decide what our characters should be called. I know that in my own experience I have changed the names of my characters several times – even well into the book.
For book 1 of the trilogy that I’m working on, I was completely done with the book only to realize that one character name was too bland. It simply didn’t portray what I wanted to communicate.
And that’s exactly it! A character’s name allows the reader to judge your character without knowing anything about her.
What comes to mind with the name Sheila?
Sheila seems stern but mystical, in that she’s not easy to figure out. She probably is very strong-willed.
What comes to mind with the name Payne?
Payne seems to be hard-nosed with little concern for others. He probably has little regard for people he knows, and he silently enjoys hurting others emotionally.
What comes to mind with the name Alexander?
Alexander seems sophisticated and noble. He wouldn’t be the kind of guy who just let injustices roll off his shoulders.
There’s so much more to explore from the characters above, but immediately there are assumptions that your reader will make from the name that you give to the characters. Play off those assumptions!
Since you know that Sheila is mystical and hard to figure out, you could write her to be just like her name implies. Or you could go the other route. You could write her contrary to what the reader would assume. Now you’ve created another dynamic. Either way, you should let your character’s name be another tool in progressing your premise.
Check out WRITER’S ANONYMOUS for more understanding on a premise.
One important note about names is that they should not be complicated. Some people would contest this, but I have certainly read my share of manuscripts where writers are trying too hard to make their characters seem “out-of-this-worldly.”
I’ve read names similar to Yaaguel and Zenorthoralia and Praueia. Names that are tough to pronounce will become a nuisance to the reader, and soon the reader will become distracted from your story. The focus will become trying to pronounce your character’s name. And then the focus will be the coffee table as the reader gently places your book down in exchange for some mind-numbing NetFlix.