For Fictional Characters
No matter what sort of character name you’re pursuing, heed common sense and follow these seven rules to make sure you pick the best names possible for your story.
1.Check Your Roots
It’s better to call a character Caleb, which means “faithful” or “faithful dog,” than to overkill it by naming him Loyal or Goodman. Some readers will know the name’s root meaning, but those who don’t should sense it through your writing.
2.Get Your Era Right
If you need a name for an 18-year-old shop-girl in a corset store in 1930s Atlanta, you know enough not to choose Sierra or Courtney. Browse for names in the era your writing. Small public libraries will often have decades’ worth of local high school yearbooks on the shelves. Having the wrong name in the incorrect era will only throw your reader off and could lead to the DNF (Did Not Finish) pile.
3.Speak Them Out Loud
Your novel might become an audiobook or an e-book with text-to-speech enabled. A perfectly good name on paper, such as Adam Messina, may sound unclear out loud:
Adam Essina? Adah Messina?
If you’re not planning on this feature, I would suggest you rethink this choice. There are many people in the world who enjoy reading that can only do so via listening due to any handicaps they may have. Don’t exclude them.
4.Manage Your Crew Appropriately
Distinguish your large cast of characters by using different first initials, of course, and vary your number of syllables and places of emphasis. Remember to show diversity in your characters, especially if they hail from different cultures and backgrounds.
5.Use Alliterative Initials
Employ this strategy to call special attention to a character. For Example: Daniel Deronda, Bilbo Baggins, Ratso Rizzo, Severus Snape.
6.Think It Through
You might notice that in most crime fiction the murderer rarely has a middle name or initial. Why?
Because the more you explicate the name, the more likely there’s a real person out there with it. And reading your story they might become upset and try to sue you or come after you some night with a bayonet.
In contrast, most serial killers and mass murderers tend to have a first, middle and last name. They usually are referred to by their full name each and every time. A good sign for narcissism.
Ensure that you’re not using names that are overused in other fictional works. Some names might remind readers of a personality type that doesn’t fit your character. And ensure that any foreign names are used correctly–don’t give a Japanese name to a Chinese character unless that’s part of the story.