Naming a fictional character

So what’s the big deal about naming a character in a fictional novel? I mean, a name is a name, right?

Naming a fictional character can be a fun but daunting experience, each name could reflect major personality traits, or the character’s role in the story. Those who know me and my writing process are well familiar with my quest for the perfect names because I can’t start writing until I reach a point where I feel the title of the book and character names are perfectly match for the story. Crazy, I know. But hey (shrugs) I’m a writer.

Two years ago, when I started to outline the Martha’s Way series, I needed names that at least to me, reflect each personality and have significance in the story. To my surprise, for Claire’s mother, I kept thinking of one person…Rosa Parks. Yep. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks the beautiful resilient African-American Civil Rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

I knew Claire’s mother’s character would be critical in her daughter’s growth, and I wanted a name that captures her strength. As I am writing Claire and Forrest’s story and getting more familiar with Rosa, I couldn’t have picked a better name.

Remember, there are a myriad of places to find names for your characters. If you’re struggling to come up with just the right one for your character, try these:

  • Phonebook – Your local phonebook (if they still exist) is sure to provide you with a thousand of names.
  • Biblical Names – Many names from the Bible are unique. Just keep in mind that some are difficult (if not impossible) to pronounce.
  • Internet – Do a google search for “baby names” or “random name generator” to help you along. As a note, I always stay away from popular names.
  • Soap operas – There is no doubt the soaps are loaded with interesting characters. A few well-known soap names include: Victor Newman, Erica Kane, and Bo Buchanan. Try mixing them up to come up with names like, Erica Newman or Erica Buchanan. You get the idea.

I keep a running list of names. When I hear or see one I like, I jot it down. I may never use some of them but here and there they do come in handy when I am introducing a new character in a novel. It’s a great reference list.

Remember, a name is the first thing your reader will encounter in the story to help him or her identify with your character. Make an effort to choose names that not only are identifiable but memorable, too.

Happy Writing!

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