Names are an integral part of a character’s being. It is very rare for a character to be without one. They help with identification and often reveal something about the character in question. So making sure you use the perfect name is vital. Here are a few of the ways I choose the names.
First and foremost, name meanings. If you choose a name that relates to the character in some way, such as personality or their future, it can provide little clues to the reader, making reading more exciting. It can also serve as a reminder for the writer as well as providing extra depth. The name can connect with the rest of the character, making a whole rather than two disconnected ideas that do not really fit. For example, one of the characters in my novel-in-progress, ‘The Unnaturals’, is called Aleksander, which means defender of man. Not only does the name suit the character it also describes his role in the novel.
Secondly, taking names from your own life. It is a well-known fact that whenever someone says they are writing a story, someone will always ask if they can be in it. But there is something to be said for taking names from the world around you, be them from friends, family or people you admire such as authors. For instance, one of my minor characters is called Thackary, after William Makepeace Thackeray.
On occasion I will combine two names to create one, particularly in ‘The Unnaturals’ where names follow a certain style, depending on the group they belong to. Marais is an example of this, her name being a combination of Thais and Marine. This also takes meaning into account; the former meaning the bond and the latter meaning the sea, as Marais is a character that bridges the real world with the spiritual (represented by the sea).
This concept of combining names also stretches to just making them up, particularly when the name has to fit a certain style. One such character, Zayrala, is an example of this method. I wanted the name to flow, but still be hard at the same time. To create it I listed all the features I wanted to be part of the name – over two syllables long, certain letter combinations, where I wanted the emphasis to fall. From there I began coming up with names, trying them out with the character’s traits to see if they fitted. In the end Zayrala was the name that worked.
Sometimes, a character just comes with a name. This is not particularly helpful, but it is true. You create the character and the name just fits. Calling the character anything else just feels wrong. Emelia falls into this. One of the earlier characters I created, she just suited the name Emelia. I had a go trying other names on her, but they just fell flat. Emelia it was.
I hope you found that helpful. Naming characters is difficult and not something to be taken lightly, particularly as it can affect the reader’s perspective of the character. Don’t be too hard on yourself either, if you can’t think of anything. Sometimes the character just needs some time to develop before it fits comfortably into a name.