Baby Naming in Reverse for the Fully Grown Character

In many ways naming a character is very different from naming a baby, if only because you already know what kind of person the character is or will be. Still, although they are different (e.g. a parent can name a child after a famous character but a writer never should) there are instances when the writer/namer should use baby naming as inspiration for character naming.

If you know your character, and you know some of his or her history, and you know his or her family, one way to discover the character’s name is to think about naming him or her from the parents’ perspective.

Does X come from a well-to-do family with a long history, where the father would want to pass on his name to a junior or where the mother would want to pass on her surname as the character’s given name to show an association with her family? Is the character the child of immigrants who either want to choose a name from their culture to have the character remember his or her roots or want to choose a very American (popular, maybe TV-inspired) name so the character will fit in with his or her peers? Is your character’s mother, who moved from the northern east coast down south to be with her husband, still attracted to the Classic, Traditional names popular in her hometown?

Although, like most background information you “know” about your character, the character’s naming story may never be overtly presented in your novel it will still influence your character and his or her interactions with family, friends and others. Bronson Alcott III will have a different interaction with other 20-somethings than Brogan Kimball. Brittany Gonzales will face a different reaction from others in her Arizona community than Manuela Gonzales. Sadie will stand out more amongst her friends Careen, Leanne and Shelby, than if she was named Savannah.

A character’s name doesn’t just reflect the characteristics that person expresses: The character’s name is a reflection of the hopes and dreams (and sometimes bitter resentments) of the character’s parents.

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