Naming Characters

I was answering a question over on a website I frequent, and I thought perhaps this might be good info to pass along to those of you who are just beginning to write.

Quick Naming Tips

1. Pick a name that was common during the time era in which your character was born. A 14-year-old protagonist would have been born in 1996.

A quick look at shows that the top 10 girl names that year were: Emily, Jessica, Ashley, Sarah, Samantha, Taylor, Hannah, Alexis, Rachel, and Elizabeth. That site breaks names down by sex, year, and lists 200 names in each year. You're bound to find one there.

2. Pick a name reflective of the character's nationality and personal background. Example: a British girl would probably never be named Dixie. A minister's daughter probably won't bear the name Delilah.

Do some research with Google search engines to find names reflective of different countries or just look to the movie stars from other countries. In the UK, Cate is a popular first name as in Cate Blanchett, and Emma Watson in the Harry Potter movies.

3. For a surname (last name), scan church bulletins, organization newsletters, and even the phone book. Pick a surname and pair it with the given name (first name) you've chosen. Again, you can find English surnames on the Internet.

4. If you're serious about your writing, buy a baby name book. There are many on the market that include information about ethnicity which is important if you're naming a character from a different country or culture. I have 5 baby name books on my research book shelf.

5. Don't choose names that have the same letter or sound. Do an alphabetical cross out of names you choose so you don't have Kathy, Ken, Conner, or Caitlin. Do this alphabetical elimination for first names and last names.

6. Avoid names that end with S because making a plural and/or a plural possessive of these names can you drive you crazy. If you do it correct grammatically, it will look wrong to you. If you do it the way most people do, it's incorrect grammatically.

7. Avoid weird spellings and names. Those 2 things drive readers nuts. A reader wants to be able to pronounce a name and know what it is at first glance. Guessing at a pronunciation makes a reader not want to read the piece. Example: Korajus (real name I came across -- pronounced courageous)

8. Never use a real name though sometimes you can create something fictional only to learn it's a real name. Don't knowingly do it though.

9. Avoid androgynous names. This can be irritating for a lot of people. Sure, there are lots of Samantha's who are called Sam, but try to avoid a plethora of nicknames: Sam, Mike (Micah), Mac (MacKenzie), Pat (Patricia), and Taylor, Blake, McLane, Rory, Harper, et al.

In the beginning when a reader is just getting acquainted with your cast of characters, it can be off-putting keeping all these unisex names straight (no pun intended) with the gender of the character.

10. If a name has to be explained, then choose a different name.

11. Choose a name that offers subtle characterization. It's easy to believe that a woman named Presley might have had a parent with a serious obsession with Elvis. A similar obsession can be opined for a parent who names a child Lexus.

12. Keep a bible: a master list of the names you choose and in what work you used them. In fact, keep a master list of every name used: people, places, business, etc. That way you won't find yourself discovering at the last minute that you already used a name in a manuscript 10 years ago. No lie: writers forget.

Takeaway Truth

Names go in and out of style, just at a slower pace.

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