Naming your characters is like picking a name for your baby. You want to pick the right one because you’ll be living with this ‘child’ that you birthed for a lifetime and so will your readers. It’s also important because you want the name to convey the character’s indescribable aura.
When you hear the names Catniss, Darth Vader, Bilbo, Spock, or Casanova, an image forms in your mind. This is not only because you’ve seen these names attached to characters (visual representation) but they also evoke an illustrative quality that prompts the imagination. That’s a great goal. To evoke an emotional reaction whenever your character’s name is mentioned is a tribute to the success of your book.
Now it’s your turn to choose the best name for your character.
- Make it Appropriate. Now that seems silly. Of course, it’s appropriate, it’s your character so you can name them whatever you want. Still, there are words that are associated with behaviors, characteristics, or incidents that could negatively impact your book’s success. Yes, there are few parameters for choosing a character’s name, but there are courtesies. So, keep that in mind when you pick a name.
- Make it Distinctive. Be certain that your characters stand out but also stand out from each other. Unless they’re twins, Sally and Sal can get a little confusing. The same goes for the first consonant. I remember reading a book where there were three sub characters whose names started with ‘D.’ I found myself often referencing back to earlier pages just to ensure I had the right character in my mind.
- Make it Realistic. While some character names should be quirky and embody the uniqueness of your character, something too far out there that is either difficult to pronounce, remember, or identify with can lose your readers. Something realistic doesn’t mean boring, but rather believable.
- Make it Smart. There are people we all love to hate and people we love to love. But when these folks are celebrities, politicians, dictators, criminals, heroes, or anyone else the public is familiar with, it’s quite risky to create a character with the same, or similar name. Not only do you risk alienating some readers, but you could find yourself amidst a defamation accusation. So be smart and create a name for your character that won’t offend or incite.
- Make it Fun. This is your chance to create history. Your next best-seller will have characters that will live far beyond our lifetime, so pick a name worth remembering. If it’s a thriller or suspense, make it cool. A satire, make it quirky, a young adult, make it memorable. No doubt your story will be, so you might as well give rise to monikers that are worthy of their journey.