Mar 29, 2013

Difficulty Naming Characters

I hear many writers say they struggle when naming their main character.  They say, "I need a name that matches the personality of the character." Let me explain.

Recent copies of baby-naming books have included a section titled, "What to name your son if you want him to be the President," followed by a list of names you could probably guess:  William, Robert, John, etc... So you see, we even have preconceived thoughts about people by just hearing their name.  If we hear "William" we might think political or wealthy or intelligent.  The same goes for Robert and John.  These facts sometimes determine why people choose the names they do.

Other writers like to research names for their meaning.  For example, Jessica means wealthy (ha!), so some writers would only use that name to portray someone of wealth.

In the past, I have written stories, only to change the main character's name about five times.  Each time I'd have thoughts like, "No, this name is too mature for the young character" or "This name is overused."  The cycle would go round and round until finally, I landed on a name I loved.

Do you struggle with naming your character(s)?


  1. Sometimes, for sure! When I write fanfiction (predominantly Transformers), I tend to stick with words from the dictionary that aptly describe my characters -- Misery, Stricture, Taciturn, Epileptic, etc...

    For my original novel, Uncertain Heirs, I went a different route. Most of my characters are nobility, so I searched real ancestral lines for monarchies in our world, to find names from a similar demographic. But for others, like my main character Fredderick and his brother Dungareth, I used portmanteaus of existing names.

    Fredderick's name comes from Fred and Derick, which combined means "peaceful ruler of the people". It's not much of a stretch from the normal spelling of "Frederick" (which only means "peaceful ruler"), but it conveys the gestalt of his persona. He is a kindly prince. His middle name, though, is a direct contradiction. Anlexi (another portmanteau) means "in absence of the defender", so he does a flippable switch that will set him off!

    Dungareth's name comes from Dunstan and Gareth, and means "dark and gentle". His middle name is Rannulfyr, meaning "shielding wolf".

    I admit, it took me *months* of planning their first names alone. The middle names came later as their characters progressed. In that case, I don't view it necessarily as a difficult process, just an involved one.

  2. In the past, I have chose character names, only to realize that I had too many preconceived thoughts about that name. I'd think, "No, I knew a girl with this name, and this character isn't like her," so I'd change it. But, these days I don't struggle as much.