10 Things To Consider When Naming Characters

10 Things To Consider When Naming Characters

Writers Write is your one-stop resource for writers. We have put together this list of 10 things to consider when naming characters in your books.

Naming your characters is important. This is especially true for your four main characters: the protagonist, the antagonist, the love interest, and the confidant. They drive the story and we get to know them well.

They are your creation and you should put some serious thought into the process. Take time when you are doing this. Treat them as if they are real people and imagine that they will have to live with your choices forever.

10 Things To Consider When Naming Characters

Here are 10 things to consider when you’re naming characters:

1.  What does the name mean?

Read: Naming Characters – 33 Fabulous Resources To Use

6.  What is his or her birthday?

  • Google the date to ensure you haven’t given the character a ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ birthday.
  • Google the year to find out the 20 most popular names that year.
  • What film was No. 1 in the year you’ve chosen?
  • What song was No. 1 in the year you’ve chosen?
  • What TV series was the most popular?

7.  What are his or her siblings’ names? Have you chosen names that suit the family? If not, why not? Do the children’s names all start with the same letter? Consider what type of parent does this to their children.

8.  What versions of his or her name will people use?

Example: Amanda, Mandy, Mands

9.  When you say the name out loud – first and last name – how does it sound?

10.  Are the initials inadvertently funny?

Example: Patty Clark will always be PC

I suggest you complete a character questionnaire for your important characters. Choose from one of these: 9 Useful Character Questionnaires For Writers

Three ways to help you choose a name

  1. Does the meaning suit your character’s role?
  2. Is it believable for the time he or she was born?
  3. Does it suit his or her ancestry?

The others

Make a list of your characters’ names.

  • Do they all begin with the same, or a similar sounding, letter of the alphabet? If they do, change them.
  • Do they have a different number of syllables? If they don’t, change them.

Tip: Do not give a secondary or minor character a unisex name. This can cause confusion, and you never want to confuse your reader.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Wherever I Lay My Hat – How Setting Affects Your Characters
  2. 12 Crucial Things To Remember About Setting
  3. How To Write A Beginning And An Ending That Readers Will Never Forget

This article has 4 comments

  1. Snarkangel

    Ahem. You sometimes want to confuse your reader. If you are confusing your reader, make damn sure it’s on purpose, and make sure they are confused in exactly the way you want.

  2. Amanda Claassens

    I really enjoy and appreciate the valuable hits and guidelines that you share with us. Thank you very much. This was particularly helpful

  3. Writers Write

    Thank you, Amanda.

  4. Becky Black

    I think an important thing to consider is that the name characterises the parents who gave it to the character even more so than the character themselves. Would those people really name their new baby that? And try to imagine them using it followed by “clean your room” or “play nice with your sister”.

    And there’s always the important question – especially for a male character – “would this name have got the character beaten up at school?”

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