How to name fictional characters
There’s been a lot of talk about the royal baby the last few days (Congratulations Will & Kate by the way) and much speculation about the new little prince’s name. While us common folk might toy with the idea of Moses, Mackenzie or Messi (yes, seriously one of my neighbours just lumbered her son with that beauty) the Royals have to stick to traditional choices. I’m plumping for James.
But what about naming characters in your novel? I was lucky when writing Flip-Flops, to be honest, the names just fitted the characters although I did have fun with naming the animals. However, after being asked the question several times in interviews, it seems that for some, the whole process can be difficult and filled with perils.
Of course, if you’re writing a book set in World War II it’s unlikely your heroine will be called Kylie or Jaiden and the name also has to fit, I mean Darren Smith and the Philosophers Stone doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Here are a few things to consider when christening your literary characters;
Say the name out loud, this is extremely important; if you haven’t already check out the story of Dickens Cider to see why. Also if your book is audio-enabled the name should be clear and easily understood.
A terrific way to draw attention to a character is to use alliteration, for example, Bilbo Baggins, Willy Wonka and Peter Parker but this can be overdone and you don’t want everyone in your story to have double initials.
The key is to mix it up have names that sound different and are of different lengths, avoid ones with the same endings such as Jason and Mason and god forbid don’t have any that rhyme such as Tina and Nina or Chelle and Belle
Ethnicity is also an important consideration no native North American Indian is going to be called Mabel and similarly, an English aristocrat is unlikely to be called Vladimir and as any author knows there are always people eager to point out mistakes
A good name should be easy to pronounce, roll off the tongue, be from the right era and perhaps most importantly fit the personality of the character, you’re not going to want to name a serial killer Peaches for instance.
Don’t name characters after people you know, especially not really horrible ones, you don’t want a lawsuit or them coming after you with a chainsaw
Think unique, meaningful and suitable and you won’t go far wrong and if you get stuck make like William and Kate and start scouring those baby names books.
Do you have any tips, when choosing names for your characters? Are there any characters you think were misnamed? Are there exceptions to the rule?