Writerly Post Wednesday: Character Names — They’re Important!

WPW

One of the best (and most frustrating!) part of writing a novel, if you ask me, is coming up with names. Whether it’s a name for a character, shop, kingdom, or whatever — it’s really quite difficult. But also fun too. You want to come up with something memorable, pronounceable (this is an important one, especially in fantasy… there are so many unpronounceable names in that genre it’s not funny!)

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So where are you supposed to find these perfect names?

The internet, other books, people I know or have heard on, sometimes I’m even inspired by other languages… the list goes on, really. There are so many places to find names yet I find that it can take a lot of time to find that perfect name. But with me, once I know that name, it sticks. I’ve never ever changed the name of my protagonist. (I have with side characters and place names, though.)

Here are a few of my favourite sites. And, er, yes, they’re baby name sites.

Nameberry — This one is particularly awesome, might I add.

Behind the Name — This one is good for people who are searching for names which have a meaning

Baby Names — A good, easily-navigable site

Baby Name Wizard — Really, I just like the same of this one…

Are names really that important??

I suppose they’re not. I’d rather a novel to be amazing and have crappy names, rather than the visa versa. But to me… they’re important. I will literally spend hours searching for the prefect name! I mean, after all, you’re going to have to work with these names for the rest of the novel… so you’d better like them!

Just for the heck of it, I thought I would share some of the names I’ve used for my protagonists in previous/current novels.

Zaria

Alyssa

Isadora

Talyn (pronounced the same as “talon”, but I thought it looked cooler this way…)

Ava

Juliette

Farrah

Arden

Arabella

Evony

I was pretty proud of these names. Most of them took a long while for me to figure out, but there were some names (Ava and Evony in particular) that had their names long before their story started. Others took more time to find, but overall, I was pleased with these names and I haven’t changed them once. (And yes, they’re all female; I haven’t got the courage to write from a male perspective unless it’s in third person. Don’t think I could do it right.)

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As writers — and readers — how important are names to you? Do you even notice/care what characters are called? What are some of your favourite names you’ve chosen from your own novels? I’d love to hear them!

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15 thoughts on “Writerly Post Wednesday: Character Names — They’re Important!

  1. In my WIP (the Alice in Wonderland retelling) names have been soooo important – not just of characters but of place names. I get most of my names from other languages – “Solsabbia,” the yellow land, is a mix between “sun” and “sand.” Plus I like the sound of it :P I love all your names too – Ava seems to be a popular one recently, and I LOVELOVELOVE Evony. It’s such a nice variation on Ebony :)

  2. Names are super important to me. It has to be the perfect name for my character otherwise it won’t do. They have to look and sound like the character. I do change my character’s names a lot though. I have Argent, Ariel (who is a boy. Normally I avoid unisex names, but his name is perfect for him), Cleonie, Aida, Ophelia, Camellia, Hailynn, Hadley, Kaitlyn, Corrinne, Isobel, Eira, Callida, Norah, Oliver, Harper, and Henry. It seems like I’m writing a lot of different books, but a lot of my books are actually in multiple point of views. Those are basically all my point of views, but I can’t chose a favorite of their names.

    • Yep, I’m a name-changer, too. Not that often, but sometimes I’ll find a better one, or something in their story/character will change, and suddenly that name doesn’t “suit” them anymore, which sounds weird, I know. LOVE the name choices there, especially Argent, Eira and Norah! :)

      • I completely understand the who “name doesn’t ‘suit’ them anymore” thing. That’s how I am with all my names. And thanks! I love your names, too. My favorites of yours are Arden, Talyn, Evony, and Alyssa. ;) And that spelling of Juliette is definitely my favorite. I don’t like it when it’s spelled the normal way, but I love it when it’s spelled “Juliette.” It looks prettier.

  3. Yes! Fantasy names are often really hard to pronounce. Sometimes I feel like people just slap a bunch of random letters down onto the page to make the fantasy names all fancy and special. I know they don’t, but that’s what it seems like. I really needed this post today. I’m currently trying to plot a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I’m starting with figuring out who the characters are going to be, but I just cannot get their names right. I’ll be sure to check out all those links; I’m sure they’ll really help me. For my current WIP, my character names are really light hearted and whimsical because it’s MG sci-fi. My Beauty and the Beast retelling character names are going to have to be a lot more serious and realistic.

  4. Oh, man! I remember Isadora. I miss her. That book/series was great, and it was probably the first book I read of yours :)

    I agree completely though. Names are so important to a book. Most of the time, a book’s protagonist has such a common name that I forget their name completely and that reflects bad on the book in my opinion.

    Great post! I love the names/places/settings you’ve come up with in your novels–seriously.

    Tori @ Bookish Affairs

  5. YES! Names are VERY important. My co-blogger, Dyan, DNFed The Selection at first because she was really frustrated with America’s name. xD But then she gave it another shot and tried to get passed the name, and she loved the book! See, she could have missed out on a potential favorite just because of the main character’s name!

    I have the worst time trying to come up with names! (I use the Baby Names website a lot, haha! Will check out the others!) I just LOVE the name Juliette. I think I’ve used that name for at least two short stories… (which I deleted because they were crap.) There was also a time when (I think it was because of a Jackie Chan movie?) that I was obsessed with the name Farrah!

    I’ve used names like Juliette, Henry, Will (I seem to have a thing for fictional guys named Will) and Valerie. :D

    Awesome post, Kara!

    • I can completely understand being irritated by America’s name. Especially if you’re American. That would just be weird! It’d be like me reading a character called Australia. O.o I can definitely see who they would be off-putting. Eek, I admire you writing short stories! I cannot, for the life of me, seem to write them. I love the name Valerie; it sounds old-fashioned, but not too old fashioned. :P

  6. I think names are an important aspect because names are how I then associate the character. If they have a name I dislike or they are a character I dislike then it creates a stigma with the name/character. I feel characters become their names, it represents their personality, who they are. The character has to fit the name, like the child or person should fit their name. Not really thinking about it, is dangerous and I am pleased to hear you spend so much time thinking about your names. Personally out of those, Arabella and Talyn are a couple of my favourite sounding ones.

    • Yes, I agree! Also sometimes if a name is used in a novel that someone I know has… it’s just weird. Especially if it’s my own! I shouldn’t judge a book/character by its name, but sometimes if the author’s used a name I really, really dislike, then I can’t help but kind of dislike that character too.

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