Naming Characters

Ever wake up and feel as if you’re living someone else’s life? You look around and, while everything is terribly familiar, it just isn’t yours?

OR . . . did you ever wake up and wish you COULD live someone else’s life? 😉 Well, heck, buddy. You just might be a writer.

One of the first problems I ran into as a writer was naming my characters. One of my first hero names I chose was Dirk. Why Dirk? I. Don’t. Know. I probably had read it sometime and really liked the character connected to it.

I quickly learned that the hero’s name should actually fit his character–not at all like we name our children in real life.

Ever see that old, old TV show Rawhide? Let’s play a game with their character names. (You can play, even if you never saw the show.)

Three names:

  1. Rowdy
  2. Gil
  3. Wishbone

Now three character sketches–

a- Trail boss. Gruff and tough, business minded with a good heart.

b- Cantankerous old trail cook. Often adds levity to the stories.

c- Young and good-looking with many qualities of a young pup. Gets into trouble before thinking through the consequences. Often gets into trouble concerning women.

Now put them together. Which character goes with which name?

When I was writing Blind Sight, my hero needed a name that was two syllables, the first a hard consonant. I’m not even sure how I knew it. I just did. So as a gift, Marilyn gave me his name. Keegan. I still love that name!

The book I’m working on right now has a bull riding hero with a strong sense of family responsibility. He’s good-looking, nice, and he’s a Christian. His name? Mitch. 🙂

The heroine of my book grew up a tomboy, she’s a barrel racer and a horse thief. I named her Jessie, which is a good thing, because I named the first two or three heroines in my manuscripts Jennifer. (Thank goodness, I got over that!)

So the best way to find a character’s name? Get to know your character. Set up their personalities and let them live for a while. They’ll practically name themselves. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Naming Characters

  1. I always have a hard time naming my characters. In my current WIP the heroine was easy. She was a secondary character in the last book, so her name was set. I wanted my hero to be a down to earth type of guy so I named him Hank. Don’t know of that many Hank’s but I thought it fit him. Then I started digging for a picture of my characters. Found the perfect one for the hero, but he didn’t look ANYTHING like a Hank. I’ve renamed him Nicholas (Nick) and it seems to fit him. Having a picture sure has helped me get a better feel for all of my characters in this book. (Thanks Ashley for the suggestion and website!)

    • I’ve never used pictures for my h/h. Never could find any that looked like them, so I just use the pic in my mind.
      BUT whatever it takes!
      Good luck with the new story. Get writing!

      • I’m not usually emotionally tied to the characters’ names. I’ve written first chapters without one name or both — just used symbols in their place. I think because I’ve named so darn many characters over the years that it’s lost a lot of its impact for me.

        Though there are characters whose name just couldn’t be anything else but what it is. But I think names mean something different to all of us, based on our own experiences with people. My editor once wanted me to name a hero Thomas instead of Christopher so we could title the book Doubting Thomas, but I knew a Thomas who was a worthless bum, and I just couldn’t see past him to a hero with the same name.

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