Choosing the Right Names for Your Characters is Crucial

Choosing the Right Names for Your Characters is Crucial

Have you struggled to find a name for your protagonist? Are you guilty of Googling “Examples of Male names for a story”? I’ve been there. In my first book, “My Love is Deep“, Peter and Briana (not a typo, that’s how she spells it), were very close to being named Patrick and Beth. Why did I change their names? The ones I initially chose simply didn’t feel right and that’s where following your gut instinct comes in.

Just as in writing the actual story, every thing related should also come from your intuition, or, as I like to say, “listen to your heart.” Close Google. What does it know, anyway? You are the one who has written an original work and you are the one who has explored every nuance a million times over. Only you can choose the right names.

It’s true that to my readers, had they read about Patrick and Beth’s love story, they would have never known the difference. However, as the author, choosing the right names is exactly the same as parents stressing over what to call their human child. I would have forever felt like I did my characters a disservice.

Imagine if Margaret Mitchell had named her famous character “Eugene Butler”. Again, we, as readers, would not have been privy to the author’s thought process nor to the fact that “Rhett” was even a possible moniker. We would have forever known the handsome, devilish rogue as “Eugene” but, frankly, we are all silently thanking Miss Mitchell for ultimately choosing Rhett as his name.

If you are struggling with this very thing, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Say the name out loud. Does it roll off the tongue?
  • Will it take a rocket scientist to try to determine how to pronounce the name? Is it Jadee when you really mean Jade?
  • Is it a classic name? One that can withstand the test of time? My protagonist’s last name is Travis. I.e. Peter Travis, which I think is a timeless name exuding the very strength my character possesses. Take a lesson from the Kardashian’s usual faux pas and stick with something classic.
  • Take into consideration the genre. If you are writing a romance, do you want the heroine to call out the name “Harry” in a moment of passion? Does the evil villain’s name in your thriller match his personality? Just as you want your cover photo to depict the very characters inside, you want your character’s names to match the personality traits you bestowed on them. (Side note: I did once see a blond male on the cover of a book, only to find out that he’s a brunette. It struck me as odd and it was entirely distracting when trying to read about this dark-haired man who was portrayed on the cover as blond.)
  • Conversely, you don’t want to fall into the trap of calling your male lead something that will make your readers roll their eyes, such as “Buck Stallion”.

Close your eyes, breathe and let the name come to you. It will. If you have to change it a hundred times before publishing the work, do it, but only because your heart is telling you to. It will make a difference. Trust me. You can’t market something you are not happy with.

Shakespeare enlightened us when he wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” My apologies to the Bard, but in this case, a name is everything. Sorry, Will.

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5.0 Rating From 2 Reviews.
on 29, Aug 2018
This is true! A name has to hit the "spot" or I'm not happy and for some reason the story won't move along for me.
on 09, Apr 2018
Great points and a funny portrayal of the lesson at hand making this a good read. Shared with my FB group.