Monday, May 2

Inventing Your Own Character Name

Characters are the most important part of any piece of fiction. They are the driving force and your lifeline to keeping your readers transfixed. You want the best characters for your story. You want them to make an impact, be interesting, be memorable.


Names are a fussy factor in fiction writing. A writer can obsess over the perfect name for their character for ages on end. Something that sounds good, has a meaning that suits the personality of the character, and isn't too ordinary.

A solution pops to mind!

Why not create a new name for your character? It can sound snazzy, there is no pre-existing meaning to obsess over, and no other character in fictitious history - or otherwise - will have ever had this name.

Unique! Instant winner.

Hold it. Coming up with your own character name may seem like a great idea...but is it so easy?

Here are a few things to think about:

1. Names need to have some grounding.

Hasohana Mooki.

Make sure that you are not naming a character something made-up because you think it sounds like it could be a Japanese name. You'll end up looking like an idiot and possibly offending someone.

Prince Moonshoes.

Remember that it needs to be plausible that someone would name their kid this. Actors and musicians may be able to get away with this, but I don't think that if your character is an actual prince that mummy and daddy would have picked this name for him. Prove me wrong. I'd get a kick out of it.

2. Random letters and apostrophes do not a clever or original name make. They are hard for the reader to read and remember.


This does not sound Elvish or Irish, da'ling. It sounds like the guy movies who swallows his tongue when a fox in a tight red dress walks into the party.

3. Ordinary names do not always make for an unextraordinary character.

Harry Potter.

"Harry" and "Potter" are two names that aren't uncommon, but they are a magical combination. J.K. Rowling made that name one of the most talked about in both the wizarding and muggle world. His name is unique because his character is, not the other way around.

John Smith.

Right up there with "Just call me Bob," John Smith is the alias used in Doctor Who by the Doctor. It's the quintessential plain name, but then "Doctor" isn't something that is altogether striking to the ear, either. We hear it all the time. In fact, the Doctor's real name is never mentioned.

I don't want you to think that I am trying to frighten you away from inventing your own character names. It is but another creative opportunity, drawing us in.

If you want to shake things up, try a composite of names: two halves squashed together, making something new but still sounding plausible.

Petra + Rose = Petrosa

Remember that all names were invented at some point in time. Have a brainstorm and see what works best. Try not to obsess. You'll get there in the end.


Sam said...

Thank you!!!! I was just spending two hours fiddling with my main character's name. Even though I knew all of this information (not meaning to be condescending, just educated), it really encouraged me to look at the fundamentals and try again.

Thank you! You are my heroine! <33

Keri said...

Sam: I get what you mean. I know all this info on writing but it just takes a read-through of something to get my thought process ticking and re-evaluate the situation. Best of luck with your character name! Sometimes the evolution process takes a while but it'll get there.

Skyring said...

I had it from Shane Maloney that his main character of Murray Whelan was renamed after the publisher asked him to come up with something "spikier". More sticky-up letters, rather than something flat. something that stands up out of the page better than Glans Mawson.