Hey, Handsome. What’s Your Name?

What’s in a name? How important are your characters’ names? Should you devote a lot of time to name selection or just wing it?

Well, I wouldn’t waste too much of your precious writing time selecting a name. Some people can really get carried away with procrastination and this could be the very thing to tie up your writing time. However, you should consider your characters’ names carefully.

Things to consider when naming your characters:

-When was your character born? Was this name even used back then? Just because it’s a popular name today doesn’t mean it was even heard of thirty years ago. Should you go with a popular name from that era? Not necessarily. But, I’d shy away from today’s trendy names.

-What does the name say about your character? I don’t mean you need to research what the name means in a baby name book (although, you could). But there are some names that feel stronger than others. Some names might feel older or younger. For example, if I hear the name Ethel, I’m not expecting to see a four-year-old girl. I associate that name with an old, wrinkly woman.

-Will the reader like the name? Of course, this is subjective, but you still have to keep the reader in mind. If you use a very different, uncommon name, there’s a risk readers won’t like it.

-Is the name easy to remember? My husband recently introduced me to someone he works with named Dalton. While I love the name, I have never heard it before (maybe I’ve been living under that rock too long), and I struggle to remember it every time. For some reason, my brain keeps telling me his name is Dawson, which I know isn’t right, but I can’t seem to get it straight. (Might be an age thing. Just wait until I’m seventy.) Luckily, I’ve never called Dalton by the wrong name. I just avoid using his name when he’s around.

-Can the reader pronounce your character’s name? My hero’s name is Davyn (taken from a golfer I’d seen playing on TV once). I never realized that some people might not read his name correctly—Dav – In, like Gavin or “have in”. So, I was shocked when a critique partner brought up his name and called him “Dave – In”. Still, I don’t believe most people will mistake his name, so I’m keeping it. Trust me. I’ve asked around. She was the only one to call him that. But, if others had mispronounced his name, I would’ve reconsidered.

-Do all or many of your characters start with the same letter? Do their names sound the same? Are they all four-letter names? Keep these questions in mind, because it can be hard for a reader to keep track of who’s who when the names are too similar.

What other things do you consider when naming your characters?

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Lynnette Labelle
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