It’s not as easy to name characters for a book as it seems.
Just like the plot, setting, and word choice, names take a lot of thought from the author.
1. Make sure we can pronounce the name.
Can you pronounce Iphnkch? Neither can I.
2. Use a unique name.
I don’t know anybody named Iphnkch, but there are other unique names out there. Flip through a baby name book and pick out out of the ordinary names that maybe you haven’t heard of before.
Also, it might not hurt to make up names once in a while, especially if you’re writing in the science fiction and fantasy genre. When I make up names I scramble the letters in names I know. For example, I have a character name Lechar in one of my novels. I spelled “Rachel” backwards to make “Lehcar” and then switched the “C” and “H” to make the sound flow better.
2. Check the meaning of the name.
The meaning behind a name can be a hit or miss. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t. Some readers will already know the meaning behind some names, some readers won’t. Some readers may look up the meaning, others won’t. However, I do think checking the meaning of a name is fun for the writer and can hold a hidden meaning behind the plot–if the reader does decide to look up the meaning. Maybe that’s just me, though.
3. Check the setting and era of your story and name choice.
Check the top 100 names for each year. Check the origin of each name. The top baby names from the 1950s are much different from what they are today. Also, make sure you get the origin right. It’s doesn’t make much sense to have a female born and raised in Japan and speaking Japanese knowing no English named Amanda.
4. Let the first and last names flow together.
When I say let the first and last names flow well, I mean watch the syllables. You don’t want the first name to be one syllable and the last name be six syllables long. It will take the reader a while to get through and may end up twisting their tongue. I prefer having both names being anywhere between one syllable and four syllables, occasionally five syllables.
Alliteration is also fun, too. If you want someone’s name to stand out and roll right off the tongue, alliteration is the way to go.
5. Choose carefully.
There’s about 7 billion people on this earth, according to Google. There are too many people to count with the same first name. Ironically enough, there are plenty of people out there with the same first and last name. Make sure you give each name justice and make a note that each character is purely fictional and not based off of anyone in any way, shape, or form. You never know who might be offended, especially if they’re name is used as a murderer.
You also probably want to make sure the name isn’t from a main character of another big novel or series. For example, you shouldn’t name your character Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen.
6. Nicknames and middle names.
Nicknames are fun. I think a nickname definitely shows personality in the characters. Some people have nicknames based on their full names (for example, Nicholas and Nick) and some have nicknames based on something they love or something they did. It’s almost like a memorial for something. Nicknames can mean a lot of things, so have fun with that. Also, it says a lot when certain people call the character by their full name and others call the character by their nickname.
Middle names are a hit or miss. There is no reason we should know any character’s middle name unless something huge is happening, like they’re taking a big test or doing something for the government. Even then, a middle initial would probably suffice. I give all my characters middle names just in case. If you give your character a middle name, you should make sure the middle name flows along with the first and last names.