Elliot Chan’s vlog on how to name a character in your novel
Naming your character can be challenging. Unlike naming your pet or your children, a character comes with their own experiences and history.
While it might seem like a name can be something you can tack onto any person, that is not so.
A name can alter the way other people interact with your character and how your character thinks about themselves.
In order to find discover or create a name that fits, we must think less like the writer and more as the parents or guardians who named the character. Once you know the naming conventions of that society, the family within it and what external factors influenced the choice, you can be assured that the name you have given your character is one that fits.
When I wrote my story, I didn’t dwell too long in coming up with names for my character. I simply needed to get my story down and introduce my characters. Well, here I am at the editing stage and it’s time for me to think a bit more about what my character’s names should be.
In the video, I highlighted three characters, whose names were mere snap decisions. I decided to delve a little deeper into those names, understand why I picked them initially if I can unlock any hidden meanings behind them, and massage them to discover another level of creativity that might fit those character’s personalities better.
The 3 tactics I took — that you should try as well — towards finding a perfect name for my characters included:
Understanding the etymology and meaning of the name
One of my character’s name is Delaine, which means “a lightweight dress fabric of wool or wool and cotton made in prints or solid colors.” However, my character doesn’t resemble the traits of being lightweight or soft. He is tough, gritty, and vengeful. I should consider giving him a name that correlates to his personality… or I can keep it as such and find the irony in his name.
Thinking from your character’s parent’s perspective
Imagine what it would be like to be the parents of your character. Were they proud of their heritage and wanted to ensure that certain names were passed down from generation to generation? Or were they hippies and liked to give unique names? Getting into the mindset of the actual people naming their children will give you a clear direction on how to name someone or something.
Combining different words together and changing the spelling
My character Bernard Barnwell is a farmer: Barn-well. That’s by no means clever, but that was literally how names were created in the beginning. People simply received names through recognizing who they are or what they do. Such as Johnson, means John’s son. Nevertheless, here is where you can attempt to be a little more creative. Take Barnwell for example, what I decided to do was make it less obvious. So, I found the Old English word for Barn: Bearn, and combined it with the Norse word for skill (replacing well) skil. Combined I have Bearnskil. A name that is, generally speaking, unique.
Are you writing your story and having a hard time coming up with a suitable name? Give these three tactics a try and see if you get a spark of creativity. Don’t forget to have fun, and enjoy the process.
Follow my writing journey on YouTube!
Reposted from Elliot Chan’s website.