Naming Characters: One Take On This Process

The process of choosing names for characters is one that can be undertaken with much happiness, or, at times, fraught with immense difficulties. It can sometimes be a stumbling block in writing, as, for example, the character in question is a central character through whom the action flows, and the inability to name the character may temporarily handicap the story  as a whole. There should not be reason for despair, though, if you are caught in character-naming limbo.

Naming Characters One Take On This Process

I have found that if I repeatedly think about what to name a character, the ideas do not flow easily. It is best to leave this process alone for a spell, and maybe continue writing or planning the story. You could also employ a ‘temporary’ name for a character if you have been using this for a while, but still do not know whether to stick with this, or have another name. The less pressure that exists on what to name the character, the better for the mind. This is something which is organic, and grows along with the story, and our perceptions of it, and the characters.

It is also advisable to remain open to stimuli, and not shut oneself off from the world during the process. For me, the names of characters have appeared at the most unexpected of moments. You may be traveling by car or bus somewhere, and notice the name of a town or suburb that could be useful for a character, and this opens up a whole host of opportunities you never believed possible. You may be in a mall or even in the supermarket, and a name can crop up that provides inspiration. It is just one of these spontaneous things that can happen.

If you are seeking something more concrete, it is also good to check out the many websites on the internet which deal with names, and their meanings. Here are links to some useful websites in this vein:

I have found on many instances that character names can be very evocative, and throw light on a character in a most definitive manner. For example, a character may be sweetness and light, and their name the opposite of their temperament, while, vice versa, a brazen character could have a name indicating purity and innocence. The fun that can be experienced doing this can be very enjoyable!

It is a good idea to also keep a list somewhere, such as a file on the computer, or in a notepad, of names which you find interesting. While they may not be suitable for a particular story, they may enrich another story which may be coming your way. Any which way you see it, naming characters is a process that provides much satisfaction, and challenges for writers, which should make the stories themselves more interesting, and potent to readers.


3 thoughts on “Naming Characters: One Take On This Process

  1. Excellent blog post, Marcia. 🙂
    In addition to your valuable best practices, I occasionally apply the ‘Character Name Generator’ – it’s freeware by Bad Wolf Software. It proved useful when I had to find a name for a character in my flash fiction series. You certainly remember Roger Rabbit’s wife (‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’)? The character in my series (not a toon) looks like her and – I was blocked…

    • Thank you very much Karen, I’m glad you liked the post. The software you mentioned is extremely helpful, lots of fun, and very interesting to use. It comes up with great names, and it’ll be interesting to see the new release when it appears on the website, as the inclusion of nationalities will be very useful.

      • The new release is something to look forward to.
        Even if we do not always need a tool’s support – the least it does is trigger our own inspiration.

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