What’s in a name?

Karalee’s Post #25

http://www.flickr.com/photos/psmithson/282445821/sizes/m/in/photostream/Characters come in all shapes and sizes.

I can take an inordinate amount of time choosing their names. It needs to feel right, look right, sound right and say something about who the character is or represents. It can have other meanings as well, such as a reflection of the theme of my book.

And of course there are reasons not to give a character a particular name. It may be because it’s a family name or a friend’s name and you don’t want your book to “be” about that person. With me it’s often because it reminds me of someone with a negative connotation such as a school bully, someone that was selfish, mean, a gossip, a rule breaker,  a drug addict, or a myriad of other reasons.

Writing a book takes months if not years and it is a long time to spend with a name that reminds me of someone I dodn’t like, even if my character is someone that is unlikable on purpose. I get satisfaction from putting my own face to a name so-to-speak.

So, how do I decide on a name? I’ve listed a few resources that I’ve used:

  1. Gender, ethnicity, and meanings of names:
  1. Flower names that have symbolic meanings. The list is full of terms that can be someone’s name as well as representing the book’s theme.
  1. Astrological Baby Names:
  1. Mythology and Astrology Names:



Personality traits can be associated with many other aspects as well:

  1.  Numerology:
  1. Color meanings and personality traits:
  1. Enneagram of personality traits:
  1. Zodiac signs:

How do you name your characters?

9 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. “It needs to feel right, look right, sound right and say something about who the character is or represents. ” To me, that just about covers it. The rest is just about finding a name that feels and sounds right.

    • Names are so important and can be difficult to find. I’m still toying with changing my villain’s name.

  2. Oh to think of all the time I’ve spent trying to find the right name for my characters, but I do think the right name, like Dumbledore or Keyser Soze makes all the difference in the world.

  3. I love naming characters. I practice by naming our lambs (by the way, we have 8 new ones so far this year from our little flock of sheep). I know, that sounds pretty lightweight, but I think names are critical touchpoints, almost like talismans, and I do take them very seriously. Not having kids myself, I can only imagine it’s like naming a being you brought into the world. Your characters always have a little of your DNA in them, don’t they (even the awful ones)?

    Oddly, my characters seem to pick their own names – or at least their names often land inside my head from somewhere “else” without much conscious thought. I do scan name references, particularly to understand how a particular name fits within the generation my character belongs to. Do I want them to have a very common name for the year they were born (this suggests conventional parents)? Or do I want them to have had to cope with a “misfit” name that separates them from their peers? Remember that old song by Johnny Cash called “A Boy Names Sue” about a kid who learns to be self-sufficient by having to fight off all the jerks who make fun of his name?

    Thanks for the references, Karalee.

  4. Names are super important. They are subconscious connections to the people we write about, even to our personalities. I love choosing names for my characters.

    • I think we all do. It’s one of the pleasures of writing and doesn’t have any rules to follow or punctuation to worry about!

  5. Pingback: Tricks of the Trade | 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months

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