Friday, October 29, 2010

Naming Your Cats. Er... I Mean Characters

A common question from beginning writers is: How do you come up with names for your characters? (This question is matched by a predisposition to name characters things like Raven, Jet or Hiro.)

There is no right or wrong way to name your characters. Really. But here are a few things you might consider during that creation process.
First. Most people are named by their parents. That means that whatever name the parents of your MC think is cool or apt is the name that they will have. This means, know your MC's background and culture and name him/her accordingly. (Because that's what his/her parent's would have done.)

Second. Names might be descriptive or trendy or just weird. That's okay. But don't pick something just because you think it's unique.

Third. Sometimes names are just a bunch of sounds put together that sound nice.

Fourth. Certain names become trendy, both in real life and in the world of fiction. Be careful about naming your character something similar to an already existing character in a similar world/story to your own. (Especially if the other story is popular.) This does not mean you could never call a character Harry or Edward, but try not to name your vampire hero/villain after another (now famous) fictional vampire.

I have a lot of cats. They all have names. Some of them my husband named. Some of them I named. Let's look at a few of the names I gave my cats to demonstrate how you might go about naming characters.

Rosie was originally called Tiger because she was tiger-striped. But every time I looked at her I thought "Rosie." I don't know why. She's not pink. She's not girly. Nor is she part of the womens manufacturing effort at home. But she's definitely Rosie.

Then there's Nona. A quiet little lady who doesn't get in trouble or have any distinguishing marks (she's solid black). At first I thought of her as "no name" but that seemed kind of rude so I shortened it to "Nona".

When I name my characters I try and look at who they are and where they come from. By the time I get finished getting to know them a name usually pops into my head. If it doesn't I turn first to their cultural roots, then to the characteristics they might have displayed as a baby. (Dark hair, cheerful, whatever.) Eventually I figure something out.

The point is, they are your characters and you can name them whatever you like. Despite my cautions there really is no right or wrong way to pick a characters name. Just let you imagination go. (And, when it doubt, peruse a site like for inspiration.)

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