Names have power. They give the first impression of a character and can even foreshadow their personality, history, or fate. In literature, character names are more than mere labels; they are a tool in the writer’s arsenal to enhance storytelling. Here’s a guide to choosing the perfect character names:
1. Consider the Setting and Time Period:
- If your story is set in Victorian England, a name like “Kayden” might feel out of place. But “Eleanor” or “Thomas” would be right at home.
- For futuristic or otherworldly settings, invent unique names or modify current ones.
2. Cultural and Geographical Implications:
- Names can reflect cultural or geographical origins. If your character hails from Japan, “Akiko” or “Hiroshi” might be suitable.
- Consider the character’s background. For instance, Arya Stark from “Game of Thrones” has a name that resonates with her warrior spirit.
3. Play with Meanings:
- Many names have meanings in different languages. “Leon” means lion—a strong, brave character might bear this name.
- Fantasy writers often use this to their advantage. For instance, “Voldemort” from Harry Potter is close to the French “vol de mort” which means “theft of death.”
4. Sound and Flow:
Listen to how the name sounds. Does it roll off the tongue?
- Soft sounds (L, M, N) can indicate gentleness, while hard sounds (K, T, G) can imply strength or aggression.
- Think of “Luna Lovegood” versus “Gregor Clegane.”
5. Avoid Overused Names:
Unless it’s intentional, avoid clichés. Not every hero needs to be “Jack” or “John.”
6. Names that Fit the Role:
A villain named “Lady Seraphine” sounds more ominous than “Lady Daisy.” Choose names that match the role or even subvert expectations.
7. Test the Name:
Say it out loud. Introduce the character in a sentence or two. Does it feel right?
A name, though a small detail, can be potent in storytelling. It can create resonance, provide insights, and make characters memorable. Spend time considering the names you give—it can make all the difference!
PS a lot of AI writing tools (or even regular tools that now include AI!) can brainstorm or generate a list of character names – like “give me 20 spanish surnames for a young noble in Madrid, 1724” and it will give results you can pick from.
Be careful not to pick names people can’t spell or pronounce; avoid names that are too similar.