I am completely the last person to talk to about this, and I know it. I have a belief that there is no wrong way to name a character. I mean obviously Ebony Darkness Dementia Raven Way is a terrible name and we all know that, but I think that’s a bit overly obvious.
Whether you name your characters to mean certain things, such as giving your main character a name that means “Hero”, naming a character after people or things you like, or naming them based on the way the name sounds. They are all valid, it’s your character and you should feel free to name them in anyway you so choose. Having said that, the way you name your character should reflect the type of story you are trying to tell. I’m not telling you to go out and name your character Victor Bedlam Price to mirror how spooky your story is, but maybe think twice before naming them something comic-esque like Sue Storm.
Having said that, there are genres where dumb naming conventions totally work and are acceptable. Fantasy and sci-fi are generally top of the ladder there, as well as comedies. Or if you really want to lack any sort of creativity, write a young adult novel about a young girl with a weird name like Tapioca Jones or Butterscotch Fennly, who falls in love and whatever with some sort of mythical creature guy. Seriously though the amount of names like that in young adult fiction is ridiculous and these people should never be allowed to name their own children if this is how they name their characters.
I’m ranting though, back on track!
Genre’d names! I personally like naming character within the fantasy/sci-fi genre, specifically the steam punk genre, because a lot of the names that I end up enjoying are completely acceptable in those sorts of stories! For example; I have a character named Jasper Thorn. Let’s face it, it’s an old man sounding name to most people. I personally enjoy the first name Jasper and I have always associated it with wisdom due to some old bible mumbo-jumbo. Also, Thorn is a weird ass last name, like seriously, who even? However, they sound nice together in my head and to me the name matches the character quite nicely.
As a side note: Thorn is the family name from the movie The Omen… So it is a real last name that’s been used before. Granted that it was used in a movie about Satans spawn but whatever.
Now I know for a fact that I could never get away with a name like “Jasper Thorn” in any sort of story that takes itself too seriously, just like a name like Kyle Andrews wouldn’t fit in Lord of the Rings. It’s just knowing what names will mesh well with your story in the long run.
“Yeah these are my main characters Kyle, Greg and Sir Archibald Grey the 3rd….”
A characters name should not only mesh well with the nature of your story but it should also flow with the names of the characters around them. Nothing is more jarring then reading a story where everyone has super cool fantasy names and then some guy named Bob Green shows up. What the hell Bob? Did you not get the memo? We were all planning on having super ballin’ hard to pronounce elf names, you can’t just throw off the squad like that dude.
On the note of hard to pronounce elf names; As a general rule when “creating” names for a character, never ever, ever name them something you can’t pronounce. If you want to name your character Eilallyn that’s totally cool but be prepared for the questions on pronunciation. They will happen and you can’t just wing that on the fly. Language has a structure, even made up ones. Try deciding first if this made up name is from any particular made up culture, if you have built your world properly then it probably is. Is this made up culture based on any cultures in our own world? If so maybe start by researching names relevant to that culture and observe how they are pronounced. Go from there. It is ten times easier to form fantasy names when you have a solid base to start with. You don’t want to name a character Tom if their from a made up culture based on a language that doesn’t have a T in their alphabet. So do your research…trust me, it helps.
Make sure to check up on the time era your character is supposed to be from. Call me crazy but I don’t think Chad was terribly popular names back in the 1900’s. Look at the names of people, real people. Observe how their culture and time era influence the way they are named. At the same time I think we can all agree that we have more than enough British Williams running around in stories. Explore and put aside a night to just sit back and do some good old fashion research. Research. Research and Research. Then when you’re done…maybe research some more.
I lied, this is the last thing. Make sure that when you name your characters you aren’t naming them something dumb. Just because a name sounds pretty doesn’t mean it’s perfect, it could mean “useless fish man”. Double check that. Especially if you’re trying to use names from other cultures. Babynames.com is your bestie, use them frequently and appreciate them. Never let them go.
Okay. I think I have actually covered everything. Naming a character can be a difficult process and sometimes, in an effort to be unique or creative, we forget to apply logic to our naming conventions. Just get to know your character, know where they are from, flesh it all out, do some research. The name will come to you.
Another personal post will be coming soon. I have a ton written up it’s just all about deciding which ones I want to post when.
Anyway guys, thanks for reading.
Till next time, stay Tobly awesome
I know I will