What's in a name? Character name that is.

When writing, I used to not focus on character names too much. My thinking was that character traits, actions and the story were the integral part of a story. That was until I had a manuscript critique by Tim Travaglini about seven or so years ago. At the time he was Senior Editor, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Young Readers Group, and he came to Arizona to speak our annual SCBWI-AZ “Welcome to Our House” Conference. I was a brand new writer and was looking for any guidance to take my work in the right direction. He really opened my eyes about what a story needs to convey and what elements draw the editor’s attention.
My character was named something inconsequential and I thought I was being very clever with the use of alliteration, something like Billy Bear. Mr Travaglini pointed out that the name of a character can add so much to a story and it is a great opportunity to surprise the reader. He suggested that I look at other authors to see what type of character names they had developed and he highly recommended looking at Beatrix Potter. There is nothing boring or ordinary about Cecily Parsley, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, or Squirrel Nutkin. Even when she used alliteration she created names that sounded magical so that they simply roll off your tongue, like Hunca Munca or Pig Wig. So Ms. Potter has become my muse when naming characters. The mantra when naming a character has beome: “What would Beatrix call you?”
But how does one come up with unique names? One thing I do is play the rhyming games that kids play. This is a great way to come up with interesting sounding syllables. A curious name can grow from there. But if you would like some more concrete resources I have recently found some interesting posts that offer some great ideas on the topic.
One of the writers in one of my writing groups talked about this great blog post by Kristen Crowley Held on the blog http://turbomonkeytales.blogspot.com/ . She was even able to find some resources for great nicknames, magical names for fantasy writers and even a random name generator. Check it out at:
Here is another interesting article about “How to give you character the perfect name” written by Devyani Borade for Writer’s Digest. It is true that your characters name will definitely impact how people perceive your character. In this article she gives examples of how other authors have researched their character names.
I hope this gives you some food for thought when naming your characters. Happy creating to you all,

4 Responses to “What's in a name? Character name that is.”

    • TBauerle

      You are so right, Rena. One the light bulb moment happened, I started really having fun with naming my characters. It definitely adds to their personality. T.

  1. Donna Jeanne Koepp

    Great food for thought. I spent an entire session coming up with names for my main characters using a name book so I could see the meanings of the names. The best thing that came out of that session is as I was looking at names, I created some awesome (to me) minor characters. I’m going to go and review all the links. Thank you for sharing.

    • TBauerle

      Thank you for saying that, Donna. A name can add so much more dimension to a character. Especially if there is specific meaning behind it. Happy creating to you. T.


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