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  • Writer's pictureAllison D'Arienzo

The Art Of Naming A Character

Updated: Apr 7

When it comes time to name a character, many authors find it difficult to choose the one that best represents their creation. I have found myself countless times sifting through websites, name generators, and even baby-naming books attempting to find the perfect fit. These tools are super helpful when it comes to finding the right name for a character! It is always good, though, to have some basic knowledge of the direction that you would like to go to help shorten the process. Below are some tips on how to navigate the art of naming your characters.

Know Your Character

One of the most important things for an author to do is know the ins and outs of their characters. Before giving your character a name, make sure that you know who they are. Make sure you know what the personality of your character is and how they interact with others. Are they formal? Friendly? Mysterious? These traits all play into whether or not your character may need a last name to address them by, a nickname that others use for them, or even a name they use to disguise themselves with. Along with this, depending on the genre that you are writing in, the character you are creating might not even be human. Establishing what kind of being the character is is a great place to start. Doing this will allow you to create conventions for how different beings are named and what type of style their names follow.

Know Your Setting

Another key component to having accurate and believable names for your characters is knowing the setting in which your writing takes place. In realistic pieces, you should be aware of the standing naming conventions. For example, if your writing takes place in Kentucky in the 1950’s, your character names would reflect that. This rule applies to any time period or place that the reader would already have some familiarity with. The naming rules shift slightly if your piece takes place in a setting that is completely new. For example, fantasy or sci-fi writers may have more freedom with how they name their characters. This freedom gives you the ability to create your own rules for naming and you can assign styles and characteristics to the different regions that may exist in your world.

Know Your Reader

It's easy to get carried away in world-building and character design. However, it is important to keep the reader in mind when creating the elements of your story. When it comes to naming your characters, make sure that the names aren’t too similar that the reader could potentially mix them up. Another tip to use when creating names, especially if it is for a fantasy or sci-fi story, is to have someone to test the names on. As a writer, I always find myself asking a friend or family member if a name sounds good or if its pronunciation is clear based on how I spelled it. By doing this, you get a feel for how readers will react to the names that you have chosen.

Naming characters is a very long process. But hopefully by using some of these tips, you will be able to start the search for the ‘perfect name’ with some ideas, characteristics, and styles at the ready!

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