Top ten things you should not do when you’re naming a character
We all agree—naming characters is probably one of the hardest parts about writing a book. For some authors, it’s like naming a child—this name will live on forever, how does one pick the perfect name? Without further ado, we have compiled a list of the top ten (with a bonus eleventh) tip on things to avoid when you’re contemplating character names.
- You’re writing your first paranormal romance, and you really love the name Damien. Guess what, so does everyone else. If you’ve done your research and you’ve read oodles of books in the genre you wish to write in you already know what names keep cropping up again and again. Be original!
- Be historically accurate when you’re naming your characters.
- No apostrophes in character names, especially if you’re writing fantasy.
- Can you pronounce the characters name? Chances are, if you can’t do it, your reader will have a hard time as well, and the last thing you want is for your reader to stumble over your character’s name.
- Does the character’s name sound okay when you speak it out loud? You’ve determined that it’s pronounceable, but does it sound goofy? What if your book is selected to become an audiobook? Is the name lyrical enough to be repeated over and over? And does it sound silly if it’s exclaimed? This might be very important if your novel is steamy.
- Don’t name characters after anyone you know. You might cause offense, even if you don’t intend to, and you might not want to associate the person you know with the actions of your character (and you can get sued.)
- Don’t name characters after famous people, or style names after famous people. Names have associations that sometimes can’t be shaken off, despite what you have the character do. It doesn’t matter if your Severus is a ruthless shipping tycoon, if you can’t shake the image of a hook-nosed and stringy-haired professor from a certain children’s series, neither will your reader.
- It’s too late to add an extra letter to your character’s name to make it unique–J.R. Ward has already done that.
- Don’t use the same first letter for several characters because it can be confusing. As in, did I read Taylor Jackson’s story? Or was that Teagan? Or maybe Ty? Was it Travis…?
- Pairing your hero and heroine with famous couple names is less cute than you think it is. Laurel and Hardy were one of the most popular comedy duos in American cinematic history. Unless you want to bring a groan to the lips of your reader, you’ll avoid this cliché like the plague.
- BONUS TIP: No apostrophes in character names. We can’t stress that enough.
Now that you’ve successfully avoided these pitfalls, check out the blog posts from our authors on their process for naming characters:
– Laura Marie Altom: What’s in a name?
– Jeannie Watt: Do characters make the names? Or do names make the character?
– Paula Graves: Choosing character names? Sometimes the Good Book can help
– Kate Hoffmann: Choosing names is never an easy process
– Linda Winstead Jones: No Homers – what if the name doesn’t speak to the author?
– Caroline Anderson: (Almost) hard and fast rules on how to choose a character’s name