Since NaNoWriMo is coming up real soon, I wanted to come up with a few more writing advice posts that I hope might help you out if you’re decide to participate in NaNoWriMo too!
Today, I wanted to tackle something that’s either really fun for a writer orr the literal bane of their existence. I’m talking about choosing a name for your characters! Maybe, if you’re like me, this process differs on the character. Sometimes a name just pops into my head and feels perfect while others I find myself changing a few hundred times.
So in an effort to make this a little easier for you when you’re feeling stuck, here are some name-bestowing tips that really helped me out!
How To Pick Names For Your Characters!
Who are their parents?
It took me a while to realize this tip really made a difference but it totally does! And I mean..duh. Unless your character is an orphan, chances are it’s their parents who named them. Consider the characters parents attitudes and where they come from. Are they simple, rich, crazy, poor, hopeful, mean etc. All these things could motivate what they might name their child. Here’s an example from my SciFi:
For instance, in a universe where it is fashionable to name your child something unique and outlandish, my protagonists mother is wishing for desperately the world to go back to the way it once was. So, she names her twins Ava and Christopher, which may sound bland to all her neighbors but to her, it serves as a reminder of what things use to be like before they got all post-apocolyptic-y. It even came to the point where I realized her husband wouldn’t like those names since he loves the outdoors and would prefer something nature-sounding.
So in thinking about where Ava’s parents were coming from, I kind of realized her parents actually have little in common and it sparked a whole other subplot later on xD
Consider their heritage
If not our first name, our last names almost always clearly indicate what our heritage is. In books, you can easily take that approach using either knowledge you already have or googling. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be Irish secretly – google popular Irish names and pick a bonny name for your character!
Whether the heritage is fictional or real, or whether your character is steeped in tradition or knows very little about her heritage are all things that could reflect their name.
Something unique vs Something old (Spelling)
I feel like this heavily depends on who your character is (and considering everything mentioned above.) It also depends on the genre. High-fantasy books won’t have simple names – consider Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely. None of the high-court fairies are named Bob. In George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, the names are all so wonderfully unique and that’s because it suits the setting/concept.
If you’re writing a YA teen romance, you might wanna tone it down. Of course though, it’s all preference in the end.
In a fantasy story I had begun but have put on the back burner for now, the plot revolved around fallen angels and a necromancer girl who doesn’t know what she is. I wanted everything to seem incredibly simple about her so I picked a super common name, Sara. However, since the whole point was that she discovers this specialness about herself, I put a more unique spin on her name – Serah.
What setting are you going for?
Like I mentioned in my first point, my Scifi’s protagonist was named as she was to remind her mother what her world use to look like before all hell broke lose. On the contrary, maybe your character is named something that suits her/his surroundings.
I mentioned in my Scifi that Ava has a twin – originally named Christopher – but when the twins get separated, Chris is renamed Hawke by his father at a very young age. They grow up deep in a wooded, naturalistic backdrop and the bird Hawke is named after reflects that. As well as what his father hopes his son to grow up to be – strong, intelligent, capable and adaptable, etc.
Maybe, for you too, the setting should heavily influence one of your characters names. Is their only one season in your universe? Do your characters live in the city or in the wilderness? In Lia Habel’s Dearly Departed, her protags are named Norah and Bram which really reflect the whole Old-London / Steampunk-esque surroundings.
Does their name have a deeper meaning?
Annnd finally – what about giving your character’s name a deeper meaning? In Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, which I’m currently stiiill reading, there is a Chinease character introduced. He tells Claire that his name means ‘leans against heaven’. And as Claire notes…that’s pretty lovely sounding. Whether you do this through language, make the name literally signify something or choose a name that’s history says something, choosing a name with a specific name can really help the decision process if you know what meaning you have in mind.
I used this method for some of my more minor characters in my Scifi. Two specifically. A girl named Belle, is described as gorgeous (literal English/French translation xD) no matter how angry or unimpressed she looks and of course there’s the fact that her skill of charming her way out of any situation has something to do with her name. Maybe this is a bit more abstract, but I named another minor character Rhyker. If you’re into videogames and ever played Tom Clancy’s The Divison, one of the first factions you run into are called Rhykers. Compared to other enemies, they’re pretty harmless and more so just shit-disturbers. Rhyker fits that description to a T because he’s not at all the main enemy here, but he causes the city a ton of trouble when his father gets fired from his job. So it seemed fit to name him after the faction in a game I enjoyed!
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So those are all of my tips for naming your characters!! I hope you found some of these helpful 🙂 Let me know in the comments down below if you’ll be participating in NaNaWriMo. It’s my first time and I’m nervous but seriously excited too! Any tips for a newcomer??
Happy Friday everyone, have a good weekend!