5 Clever Ways to Name a Character in a Fiction Story

One of the most important aspects of writing fiction is the character’s name.  Often I spend hours or even days pondering over this critical issue.  I spent more time on naming characters than I spent naming my children.  The name has to fit the character’s personality.  Names like Stephanie Plum, Sherlock Holmes, Dirk Pitt fit the characters so well and I hope to do at least that good in naming mine. This is a list of some of the guidelines I use.  I would like to take a moment and point out that NONE of these names belong to anybody I know, so if you try to find yourself in a name, you will be wrong.

What would you name your baby?
  1. Bad Guys

The bad guy will have a hard sounding name will have “J”, hard “G”, or “D” sounds.  Think Judge, Garrick, Darth.  While Judge Dred was a good guy, to me that is a perfect bad guy name.  A name that sounds like a crime is a good choice.  One novel I wrote has Arsen Gray, Bad Guy.  How about Killian Kroft?  Aaron Battle, or Lance Pierce

  1. Good Guys

An innocent woman or sweet female character will have a name like Mary Perkins or Sarah Simpkins.  It reminds me of “Babykins” or Lambykins.”  Mary denotes innocence itself.  You will never go wrong naming a mother Mary.  Also, variations of Mary, such as Marie Perkins work or Mariel or Muriel.  Sarah or Sally are good mother’s names.  Ann, Anne, Anna, Hannah are all main character names I like to use for my ladies.

For a good guy, I choose softer sounding names like, Christopher or Matthew.  James is a good guy, as in James Bond.  More good choices are Matthew Holmes, Eli Morning, Chris Shanley, or Christian Erikson.

  1. Heroes

A hero would have to have a heroic sounding name, like Ares, Arthur, Garrett, and Julius, or for the ladies, Artemis, Diana, or Raven.

To name a character, you have to figure out who they are and what they will accomplish.  For example, a male who will save Earth from destruction, but is a complete computer geek, you may try something like Arthur Palmer or Sterling Watson. I often create the back story for a character before I ever name them.  I sometimes use a “working name” until I decide what the character’s name will really be.  When I plug in the new name, I read over what I have written to see if the new name fits a s well as I think it will.

  1. Beautiful People

A beautiful woman needs a beautiful name, like Rose, Lily or any other flower name, or named for a jewel, like Ruby, Beryl, or Jewel.  A very handsome man could be Brian, Daniel, Alexander or (my favorite) Adrian.

What about a beautiful evil woman?  Ruby Pierce or Lily Lance.

  1. Intellects

Brian is a perfect genius’s name because it looks like Brain, or Isaac or Vincent.  And a genius girl could be Margaret, Sage or Alice.

I try to use names that are easy to pronounce and recognizable.  I don’t make up names, even in a Sci-Fi story.  I have seen that too often, where a character has a name that makes you want to buy a vowel.  I have spent way too much time trying to pronounce a name in my head that seemed unpronounceable.  In a novel I am currently working on, the heroine is Kathleen Fouraker and the hero is Christian Shanley.  In another Sci-Fi, I used Regina Sharpe as the heroine and James Thompson as the hero.  If you promised your grandmother that you would name your lead character after a village in Wales, then be kind to your readers and include a pronunciation guide.

The character name is an important story element, so don’t be afraid to give it some serious thought. Google it.  Look up the name’s meaning, its origins.  Say it out loud.  Does it sound hard as diamond or soft as cotton?  Also, if you need to change the character’s name, then do it.  I have changed a name more than once in my stories.


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