Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Naming Characters Pt. 1: Choosing a Name

I've read a lot about character naming on Twitter recently so I decided to blog about it. I love names and naming characters has always been fun for me. I'm kind of a name collector. I keep a database of names I like and several resources for naming at my fingertips.

When it comes down to choosing a name, I tend to go by my gut feeling. Often a name just feels right for that person. However, I do take some other things into consideration that may also help you name your characters.

Age - When was the character born? Certain names or styles of names come and go. Look at lists of popular names from his or her birth year.

Culture - Every culture has its own set of favorites and naming patterns. If the culture is not your own, do your research to accurately name your character.

Time Period/Genre - Different times, different names. And some genres (sci-fi and fantasy for example) cater to more unusual names or naming styles.

Pronunciation - Say the name out loud. Is it a struggle to pronounce? Will most in your audience know how to pronounce it?

The Name Palette - Look at the big picture as well as the individual you're naming. Are the names cohesive but different? It's like a color scheme. You want colors to coordinate but not necessarily match. Write out the names side-by-side. If things look too identical, consider swapping some of them out.

I keep a list of potential names for each character. Names that seem to jive, I use on a trial basis. I'll call the character by that name, write it out with different surnames, and let the character live with that name for a short time.

So where can you find names to try out in the first place? Stay tuned for part two and a long list of naming resources.

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