Friday, September 15, 2017

Naming Characters

Ever wonder how your mother chose her name for you? What made your parents decide to call you what they did? My kids won't ever have to ask such a question...because I've got a formula!

I'm not even kidding.

The most likely outcome, if and when I have children, is that I will use the same method to name them that I have used for all of my creations (novel characters...).

Then again, perhaps not, since my method involves already knowing a bit about the person before giving them a name and it would be unfair to leave a child nameless for a few years until I'd figured out what their personality was like. So I guess they'll have to ask those questions after all.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm going to be talking about naming characters today! :) 

So how do I come up with thousands of names for all these people living inside my head? There are several different ways this tends to transpire.

Number 1: They come with a name. Not even kidding. Most of my Main Characters (henceforth known as MCs) come with a name. I don't know where it comes from, how it gets into my head, but I do know I don't have to find a name. Lucy from the Robin Hood series. Yep. She was just Lucy from beginning. Cassy Wilmark from my dystopian trilogy. Yep. She was Cassy Wilmark from day one. That's how she introduced herself to me.

Number 2: Seeing as option number 1 is limited to only MCs and doesn't even happen for every MC, option number 2 is much more likely. After brainstorming and creating a general outline, I have an idea of who is who in my story. This is when I begin to make character profiles, and this is when I name my characters. Step 1 is to discover what makes these people tick. Who are they? What's they're most dominant character trait? What do people say about them? "This person is sweet"? "This person is the most annoying person you'll ever meet"? Are they a hero type? Based off of their personalities and character traits, I generate a list of names that have meanings that correspond to said character traits. And I pick one of them. Sometimes this means I get a name like Hope, from my dystopian trilogy, which is just an embodiment of who that character is. She is hope for her people, for her sisters. She's the light of Jesus to the world. She's Hope. Or I'll have a character like Dusty in Robin Hood who was so named because she is a warrior and one meaning of Dustin is warrior. (Dustin seemed like a dude's name though, so I made it Dusty)

And of course, there are surnames. This is similar to naming my characters in the sense that I do a little research to get a list of 15-20 names like I do when finding first names. The difference is, I don't look at the meaning of names, I just look at names that I like and more specifically names that I haven't used before (that last part also applies to finding first names. I won't have more MCs named Cassy or Lucy anytime soon). Once I have a list of names, I grab a friend and give them pairings. One name at time. I'm going to use Cassy as an example, even though I didn't do this for Cassy's character.

I'll go to my chosen buddy and say "Do you like the name Cassy Wilmark? Or Cassy Harrison?" And then I run down the list of all the surnames, slowly, and listen to the feedback that I get. Based off of what appeals to me and what appeals to my friend, the list usually gets narrowed down to 5 names. And from there, I choose whichever surname I like best.

So that's how I name characters. It's actually relatively simple. Do a little bit of research and find names with meanings that pertain to the character and then pick one of them. And then find a buddy and play around with surnames. 

And of course there's the random MC who just comes with a pre-ordered name. Seriously, I still don't know where those names come from.


  1. Cool post Amanda! I find names such interesting things; I'm sure you find they can really make a character. :)

    1. Thanks, Paige. Names truly are fascinating! :) I love naming characters and digging into the meaning of different names.


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