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How do I choose a name for my character?

by | Mar 19, 2013 | Tips For Writers | 4 comments

Choosing a name can be a very daunting process for writers. After all a memorable character with a fitting name can live on well after the reader finishes a book.

As writers we tend to ponder the name that best reflects our character in the same way parents consider their child’s name. However unlike naming a child, the writer should already have an idea of their character’s personality traits to determine the name that would fit best.

The first step is getting to know the character. Using a character questionnaire is useful in determining whether your character is tall, short, thin, heavy, shy, nerdy, ambitious, and the list goes on an on.

Race, age, and the time period in which the novel is set are also determiners in choosing a character’s name.

For instance, in my novel The Buzz, my main character Ebony Jenkins, an African American female has a ‘what comes up, comes out’ type of personality. She’s very head strong, gossipy and snarky. I needed to give her a name that reflected her strong personality, but also a name that reflected her age. Once I came up with the name Ebony, I knew it fit her! And apparently her name resonated with the readers as I frequently run into people asking me what’s going on with Ms. Ebony Jenkins? LOL.

If all else fails and you’re still unable to come up with a name, consider using an online baby name generator or using the name of an old classmate or business associate with similar characteristics to your character.

What is your main character’s name and how did you choose it? Please share in the comment section below.

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  1. Scott Roche

    The main character in my podcast novel Archangel needed a strong name. I choose Matthew York. The last name comes from Sgt. Alvin York, the most decorated sharpshooter from WWI. As an Army sniper I felt like that was a good match. His first name comes from the Gospel of Matthew. Matt's also a good strong name.

    Other character names just seem to pop into my head and don't follow any sort of "logic".

    • Stefanie

      Thats true Scott, sometimes you just know its the right name!

  2. Melissa

    I think naming my characters is probably my favorite part of the pre-writing process. 🙂 I always do some research and see the meanings of each name to make sure they fit the character. For "The Painter", the serial story I'm writing on a blog, the main character's name is Ella McCormack. Ella means "beautiful fairy" which inspires a scene later on in the story. There is also the mysterious painter whose name will be revealed in part two. 🙂 It has major significance with his personality.

    I have a huge list of names in a notebook and their meanings. You never know when you might need them. Their names reflect who they are and that is important.

    • Stefanie

      Yes, I like the process as well. In my book I wanted my "celebrity" character to have a unique name, so I used the baby name generator and then further looked up the meaning of the name.