Name Theory: Tonality

Sometimes character naming can come down to “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

Sometimes it needs something a little less tangible.

While re-reading this week’s character naming I felt like I was missing something. The writer had given me the information I asked for, but not anything more. I don’t know anything about the plot, anything about the world, or even enough of the writer’s naming style to fake it.

There is something about this writer’s book that I especially could have used when I attempted to name this character—the novel’s tone.

How does this writer plan to pursue this novel? Who are the target readers? How does this writer hope to get across the theme of this novel?

Is this going to be a dark paranormal romance, or a coming-of-age story couched in fantasy clothing, or a fantastical adventure story?

Is this story going to be humorous, or have elements of horror? Is this a “normal” world with fantasy elements, or is this a fantasy world hidden among us?

What did the character and/or her mother know of the fantasy elements before the story begins?

Any and all of this information would have given me a better understanding of what types of names would be most appropriate to the story. If her mother, for instance, was naming a girl who she knew would be a white tigers then the name Bianca would have been a way of trait naming. There are many “if”s that all relate back to the novel’s tone. Without it I was left to offer a range of options that may have been perfect and may have been off mark. With the tone I could have narrowed my search and came up with a better set of names that would give readers a feeling for the story, the character, and her arc.

If you are stuck on naming a character, think about your novel’s tone. Consider how different types of names might feel to your target readers and aim to choose a name that will resonate with your tone.

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