Today I’m just gonna give you a quick set of thoughts on character names. Some people have some pretty specific ideas of how they decide what they’re gonna call their characters. And I just wanna give you some commentary on maybe some things you should take into consideration when you’re deciding what you’re gonna call your character. Now, if you have a particular reason for why your character is named something that is unusual or possibly even absurd,
I’m not gonna tell you that there aren’t exceptions to these items I’m going to talk about, but I just want people to take into account, first and foremost, that in nearly all situations, a character who has not chosen their own name–their name is going to reflect the opinions of the person who gave them the name, which is usually their parents or their guardians or you know, somebody who has maybe adopted them later in life. Names are usually given to people. Also Read: Rogue Names
So they should be given to characters. And what you should take into account is that what a character’s name goes by doesn’t necessarily reflect who that character is. It much more likely reflects stuff about the parents. And that could also reflect some stuff about the child, the character. Partly because many parents and their children will share a family history, so that’s the first item I wanna talk about is family history. Especially with regards to last names. When you’re deciding what your character’s name is, you may wanna take into account what part of the world they and their parents come from; maybe their ancestry; maybe their–their culture.
And think about in the time, also the time is part of the setting–the time and the place and the family identity–what would maybe be some typical names that a character with that background would have. So if you wanted your character’s name, especially their last name, to reflect their racial identity or their original country, something like that, then you may want to maybe look into, if you’re not already aware of it, you may wanna look into what people from that part of the world, or people with that ethnicity, normally do go by. Also Read: Chocobo Names
So you wanna avoid clichés, of course, but try to do at least some preliminary research if you’re not writing from your own background. And don’t match–mismatch the first name and the last name unless that’s intentional. Of course there are plenty of people who maybe come from particular racial or certain-part-of-the-world background that decide not to give their children names that reflect that, and that is also okay.
So, you should take all of that into account when you’re deciding what you should call your character, and also take into account that the parents will have certain opinions about–they may have certain ideas about, like, their intentions for the child. If you meet somebody who’s got the same first name as a celebrity then you would likely assume that the parents chose that name because they were fans of that celebrity or they grew up in a time and a place where that name was super popular because of that actor’s work or that famous person’s work.
So there’s that. And then there’s also maybe if they have a particular name that reflects what the parents wanted their child to be when they grew up, such as if they expected that their child would be a successful business person they would choose something that would reflect that, or you know, if the parent had a particular name that they wanted their character–their, their child to be unique or be a performer or something like that, then that will be reflected in their name.
It will be the opinions of the parents. And sometimes–this is another thing that you have to consider–the child will not like that. Or they may definitely want to live up to that. It really just depends on the character. There should always be some kind of recognition that a character will have a relationship with their name. Maybe they hate it. Maybe they love it. May be they’re in different to it. And keep in mind that sometimes if you’ve chosen a name that is difficult to pronounce or is unusual in that character’s setting, then you’re probably going to have at least one encounter with someone who doesn’t know how to say it, or someone who thinks it’s an unusual name and will make a comment about it.
So you probably shouldn’t let those kinds of things go completely uncommented if they’re a very strange name for the settings that the character lives in and deals with. And you might consider if the pronunciation is going to be in question by the readers, you may consider putting some kind of clue in there, like saying that it rhymes with something, or have somebody mispronounce it and have someone else correct it. This is not necessary, but it’s sometimes helpful if you’ve chosen a name that is gonna get mispronounced all the time. If you actually care.
There are some authors that really don’t care how you pronounce the characters’ names and they say, ya know, you can pronounce it however you want to. The thing I really would like to urge you to avoid is having characters have either given names or chosen names that reflect something about their character that the book is trying to tell the audience that nobody in the story knows. That, to me, is one of the most obnoxious things that I see. Especially if it’s a last name and you have, like, a character who has super powers to be able to fly and their last name happens to be McCloud, or something like that. And that’s a real example.
And that book had a lot of people who had last names and first names that were mysteriously appropriate for no reason. You’re gonna be dealing with a different situation of course if a character has a chosen name that they’ve renamed themselves later in life or someone else has named them based on something that they’ve done. That is going to be much more believable. But you have to keep in mind that these names that people are choosing for themselves are based on known quantities; they’re based on things the person thinks that they are, or what they want to be.
And that may actually say more about them than it does about who they really are; it may reveal some kind of attitude that they think that they are this kind of person but they may actually not be in the actual execution of the novel. So names are not something that is given by an omnipotent deity or something like that. Names are chosen by characters. And they’re given to characters to wear as their label. So you have to keep that in mind if you want your story to be believable and relatable.
But like I said there are exceptions, and some people do like to choose very strangely appropriate names for their characters just because that’s the type of story that it is. And you could make that argument for, you know, the story that I mentioned that had a bunch of people who had names that fit them kind of too well. You could say, oh may be that story was trying to do that. I tend not to feel that that is usually a good idea, but sometimes if you’re writing like a fairy tale or something that’s silly or a little children’s book,
it can be fun to give characters names that reflect something about their personality. But if you are writing something that should be taken to be fairly realistic, you do have to keep in mind that names come from other characters. They come from people who choose those names. They’re not necessarily going to be as absolutely appropriate as you, the author, may be thinking that that character deserves a name like that. So those are some thoughts to keep in mind, and if you have questions or thoughts you can put them in the comments, and I will see you next time.