- Books, Literature, and Writing
How Do You Name Characters?
Who Are These People?
Giving Names to Your Characters
I often get asked how I find names for my characters. It's a question I'm sure most authors encounter at one time or other. There is no big secret to it.
For my latest book, I took a family name for the last name of my main character. She went through three name changes before I finally settled on Macy McVannel for her. She will be the main character in at least three novels. The first one came out in February.
For my very first book, my main character who was killed off in the first chapter was a woman I saw in a restaurant. I have no clue what her name was. She just looked to me like an Emily Meeks. It fit the woman I saw. Buck Wise was the person who had to solve the murder. He was wise. He'd grown up in this town and chosen to raise his children there. It just worked.
I had two characters working together in my second novel. Their names had to sound good and work together. They were Jake Robbins and Rachel Adams. There was no rhyme or reason why those names were chosen.
I do an entire profile of my characters. I give them a birthdate, a home town, some kind of education or lack of education. I choose whether or not they are athletic or more academic. I give them families and quirks. Their names have to be something that will connect with my readers. They have flaws, my characters are not perfect.
I have looked at lists of baby names, I have looked at surname lists. I started doing family history research and learned there are a plethora of names in my family. I don't know of a Macy. I am related to a ton of McVannel's. It was my maternal grandmother's maiden name. Using it was a way to pay tribute to the grandmother I never knew. It's a way to honor my ancestors.
However you come about names for your characters is how it should work for you. If you are writing something that requires other world names, make them easy to pronounce. Readers want to be able to identify with your characters. They need names that they can remember and talk about to their friends. Word of mouth is the best way to get yourself known. Period names really only work in period books. Keep this in mind whether or not you are writing now or in the 1800's. Today's names were not even thought of at that time. You can find lists of period names, too.
If your character is a flighty blonde do not name her Raven. It won't work for your readers. Character names need to match the characters you are creating. Is your character strong or weak, that might have something to do with what name you give them. You want them to be memorable so they need to be names that make your person easy to remember.
Make a list of the names of people in your family. You might choose a middle name, or a last name. It might be a current generation or several generations removed from you. Make a list of names you've heard of and like. Add to your list, subtract the names you've already used. Delete the ones you no longer like. Make it a working list. I rarely write about people in my life although some of my characters may have traits that I've run across.
What ever you decided to name your characters, know that they are names you will have to live with for as long as your work is in print. Good luck.