Monday Musings is a weekly event hosted by Jen Hayley, Shana Silver, and Chandler Craig that highlights some aspect of the writing life. Short on blog topics? Everyone is welcome to participate. All we ask is that you link to one of our posts and leave your link in the comments. We’ll provide the following week’s topic by Wednesday of each week.
This week’s topic deals with naming characters.
So, I think if you were thinking about the naming of characters logically, you would come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter what you name a character. After all, parents name a child before knowing any aspect of that child’s personality or appearance. So, it doesn’t necessarily make intuitive sense to name a character something “fitting.” Then again, I guess children’s personalities often closely mirror those of their parents. So maybe it makes the most sense to name characters a name that the parent characters would be apt to pick.
But this is where fiction is different than real life. In real life dialogue we know there are plenty of throwaway lines, but in writing fiction, we don’t have that luxury. Naming characters is another place that many times the writer can’t afford to miss an opportunity. Character names are an opportunity to frame a character. J.K. Rowling is probably the master at this tactic – Severus Snape, Dolores Umbridge, Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix LeStrange…
I mean, come on, in real life (even in wizard life), what are the odds that these people would actually be named these incredibly fitting names from birth? Right. Not very. But it totally works. The names add to the characterization and immediately help the reader picture the character with considerably less description needed.
So how do I come up with character names?
-The best is when one just comes to me and it fits and I know it’s right and would never change it. That’s awesome.
-Sometimes there is a certain culture that I have to pull from in order to use a particular mythology. Then, I have to go in search of names that are culturally accurate but easy to pronounce. There’s nothing worse than stumbling over a character name every. single. time. you read it. (No offense, Tolkein, I still love you.)
-Then, there are the baby name websites. This is my least favorite option, but sometimes a necessary evil. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices and to get away from the “feel” of the name.
Within my writing process, the naming of characters is very important to nail down before I start writing. Because if I have to change a name, many times I end up losing the essence of the character and, honestly, that character can wind up all muddled.
So in homage to excellent character naming, I give you my top five favorites from fiction:
5. Primrose Everdeen
4. Ruby Oliver
3. Harry Potter
2. Ender Wiggins
1. Bilbo Baggins
What are your favorite character names? Any good naming techniques?