Name Theory: All Parts of Writing are Work

I don’t think writers I named characters for realized what I put into naming their characters. They didn’t think it was work!

I spent an hours looking for names that I thought would be appropriate for each request. Even the quick namings took time and thought. I didn’t just throw out the first things that I thought of, and I wouldn’t have been able to—I can’t recall all of those names without help!

Maybe this is part of why writers came to me for help to begin with. They didn’t think naming should be work.

Let me bring you in on a little secret: All parts of writing are work! That’s why it takes great passion and fortitude to write something well and publishable.

Now, I can’t help you with all parts of writing. I know where my failings lie, and I know I have a lot of work to do. (And I know I always will. Writing isn’t a skill that can be perfected—only improved.) But I can help you with naming characters.

This is my niche, and I think I’m good at it because I care and because I’m willing to put some work into it. And you could be good at it too, if you put some work in.

Think about names a little differently. They aren’t just numbers that designate a specific item, they are complicated bits of language with both literal and figurative meanings that speak to culture, gender, class, race, age, and the liquid hopes of parents and other family members.

Think about how your character should be named. Is this a realistic contemporary character who could be named by considering how the character’s parents would have named him or her? Is this a Fantasy or Sci-Fi character whose name will create a world building paradigm by which other characters will be named? (Did you know that nearly everything you decide on for your Fantasy or Sci-Fi story is part of the world building?) Is this character part of a genre that follows certain naming conventions (sometimes Romance or Erotic characters have names that are a bit of purple prose) or which has certain names that are overused (any character named Jack, pretty much)?

Think it out by doing searches on your favorite search engine for the type of name you seek. “Cat names” or “Victorian names” or “Pirate names” will give you a wealth of information. “Fairy names” or “Vampire names” might help by showing you what you shouldn’t name your character, since those names have already been used. “Pretty names” or “Badass names” will help you get an understanding of what other people think of names.

Put a little time into your character names search, and take the search out of your head and onto the Internet. You can find a great character name, and you may just learn something else along the way.

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