Alright class, today we’re talking about…
The post title was kind of an extreme example. To be fair, I’ve not (yet?) seen a writer name any character Wyanet or Arkadiy. But I have seen some absolutely ridiculous names. I can relate somewhat. As an author, you want your character to be memorable and unique, and what better way to do that than with a really unique and unheard of character name? Unfortunately, this is really faulty logic.
Imagine you pick up a novel at a book store. It has a promising title, a nice cover, and man does that first paragraph have you hooked! Then you see the character’s name. You just stare at that jumble of letters wondering how exactly you’re supposed to pronounce it. That is when you lay the book back down because you can’t stand the thought of 800 pages of trying to work out just what that name is supposed to be.
Or maybe that’s not the problem. Maybe you can pronounce it but it’s so cliché. The hero’s name is Jack or Jason and his counterpart is some other overused name. Or maybe the writer was really inspired by another book. So inspired, in fact, that they decided to name their characters after the characters from that book.
Character names can really play a very large role in your story, so it’s important to get them right.
- Make sure the character’s name is age appropriate. Say your story is set in the present, and you make your 22 year old female protagonist’s name Ava. It’s possible that her parents would’ve named her that in 1990, but it’s much more probable they would’ve named her something like Lauren or Samantha. A great resource for looking at name popularity by year is the Social Security department’s list of popular baby names.
- Stay away from soap opera-esque romance names when writing romance and super spacey sounding names for sci-fi characters. In the 70’s and the 80’s, names like Ruark Beauchamp and Alaina MacGaren ran rampant in romance novels. Now, they’re laughable. You want your characters to be relatable. Not sound like they walked out of a second rate telenovela. Conversely, Zyxnrid would be a bad choice for your sci-fi character, unless they’re really from Mars. You want something that’s not over the top in either direction.
- Try to avoid naming your character a really painfully overused name. For instance, Jack. I pick that because Jack is a really masculine sounding name, and is therefore overused as a hero’s name. When I was younger I liked to overuse Jason or James, and I’m sure you can think of some names that are just entirely too popular.
- Don’t be pick an already legendary or iconic name. Ones that come to mind include Adolf, Scarlett, and in modern literature, Harry, Bella, and Edward.
Do you have any more advice? Or maybe a name that made you cringe and/or put down the story when you saw it?