Ah, we have all been there. We are about to start our book, a skeleton of a plot all made up and the ‘chapter one’ blazing at the top of the screen. However, as bold of a start as it may be, you realize that the character you have been picturing all this time doesn’t have a name yet.
Now, you can call this character something common, something you are familiar with, but you want to do things different this time. You want to develop an in-depth name that adds to the character and stands out among the masses of cliche names. Well, I am here to help you do just that.
There are many ways you can develop an excellent name for your character and I will be starting with meanings. Yes, all names have meanings, so perhaps a great way to develop an in-depth name is by finding meanings that best suit your character.
Those who have been writing for a while are familiar with this method and it often can help you develop an interesting name for your character. As fantastic as this sounds, if you want to be more realistic, you can’t rely on meaning alone. Names are chosen with more than meaning in mind.
To be more in-depth with naming your character you need to consider more than just meaning. You need to consider the following factors:
One; what is this character's ethnicity?
Two; what language does this character speak?
Three; what was this characters upbringing?
Now, that is a lot thrown at you so allow me to tackle each one a bit more slowly in order to help you develop a better name.
Yes, it may seem not so politically correct to name a character John because of their ethnicity, but considering the characters background, it can often be one of the most likely names that your character could be called.
Culture plays a big part in naming a character. It not only defines them as a person, but also defines their background, their heritage. Such differences should be celebrated, so by giving your character a name common with their ethnic background, your further define their character, making them appear more in-depth that simply having a cool name.
Another factor is the language. The language of the character will also affect their name. It is rare and often unlikely for a character to have a name that doesn’t fit the language they speak. By keeping that factor in mind, your character not only has a background now that makes them more in-depth, but a name that makes them more believable as well.
Language and ethnicity work hand-in-hand, so be sure to pay it the right mind. The only time a name doesn’t fit their ethnicity is when the character is pretending to be another ethnic group. FOr example, an American agent pretending to be a Russian. In these cases appearances play a part as well.
And now, upbringing. Upbringing plays a part in any characters development. How they grew up made them who they are today. It is the reason they do the things they do and how they do the things they do. Often you can trace back any characters motives to something that happened in their youth.
The character might have stood up for their friend against a bully or the character might have been the bully. However, this particular upbringing can also affect their name, depending on their parents personality and standard of living.
Some parents didn’t have the advantages of today and could search any name they wanted on the internet, so they had to choose from books of names or simply name their child after someone they knew or someone in their family.
A great way to further develop an upbringing for your character is by looking at common names in certain countries or states and seeing which better suits your character. It adds to the character and pins them down to a certain part of the world.
Once you have considered these three factors you have create a more believable name for your character and essentially made them more in-depth in the process. The process may seem lengthy, but in reality, it only takes a moment of looking into something for you to find the name you’ve been looking for.
Now, with that process out of the way, let’s take it a step further. Let us return to choosing a name with meaning. After you have narrowed your name selection to a small list you can choose a name that has a meaning that best suits the character you are trying to create.
Like I said earlier, meaning is the last thing you should consider, so with all those other factors covered you can make your name more in-depth by finding a suitable meaning. Voila, a character name that is now believable and a deeper meaning to add to it further! A+ for character creation.
Now, this discussion comes to a close I will tell you of my experience with naming characters. Before I learnt and developed a method for naming a character I was relying on meaning alone. In my earliest novel I remember picking a choosing names for their meanings and the result was ridiculous. Perhaps these names would fly in a world that isn’t our own, but when it comes to character from Earth, I had to make a change.
Soon I moved on from choosing meaning to choosing cliches and that was a lot worse. Yes, some of my favourite characters are called Jack and Sam now and that isn’t something I am proud of. However, at least these characters have names that somewhat fit their background so I get if it an okay thumbs up.
Today, I make use of this method and I find it everything I needed in the beginning stages of my writing. Nothing rounds out a character more than some additional thought put into their name alone. I hope you found this information useful. If you want to more information on improving and developing your writing I have a selection of courses available on my website, thepennedsleuth.com. There you can also check out my other work, such as my daily stories and podcasts.
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With that, I will see you in the next episode of Writing Today! Bye for now!