What's In A Name?

Hawkeye here to talk about your characters. Fury has called me in yet again, and I really don’t have much time to get this out there so here we go. (Moral: stay in school kids)

Close your eyes and pretend you’re in a bookstore. You’re looking for the latest and greatest action novel, and at random you pick one off the shelves and start to read the blurb. I can almost guarantee you that almost the first thing you learn about that book is going to be the name of the main protagonist. Very few dust jackets do not do that, because the character defines most of the story.

So Why Are Character Names Important?

Your character’s name is more than just a label or something to call it. The name is going to define who he or she is as a character. We often don’t realize it, but we’re often judging people and developing first impressions based on names. Think about it, when you hear the name Hawkeye, you're not going to picture a skinny runt of a guy with no life. No, my name exudes boldness, excitement and excessive hotness. Wouldn't you agree? 

The name you choose for your character should be a representation of who your character is, or who they are trying to become. The meaning can have value, or the name can have a kick that fits with who you want to portray. It's going to be different for every story, the names will represent different things, so think about what you want the name to portray. 

In an interview with Author Lindsay Cummings I once saw, she talked about why she named her character Meadow. If you've read The Murder Complex you know that Meadow is not a sweet little girl as her name would suggest. She could kick your butt before you could say..well anything. So why is she named Meadow? Lindsay wanted to set an opposing picture for her character, that a cute little name didn't define her character. 

Names can parallel or oppose your character.Maybe you're writing about an Assassin Lord so you name him Aaron, which means exalted or strong. Or you need to characterize the sweet little sister so you name her Hannah, which means grace. 

But in a completely different spectrum, names can also attract readers and pique interest. Especially if your story sits in a very well written and read genre, opening yet another Plain Jane meets Babe Jack might not be the most appealing. It might not seem like they do a lot, but it's fun to read about different named characters. 

Finding the Perfect Name

The naming process is going to be different for everyone. Names come easy to me, as it's generally one of the first things that I know about my character. Maybe this describes you, maybe not. The first step is always going to be to think about your protagonist's progression through the story and their emotional and physical arc. If that doesn't give fruit, there are countless sites available to help you find the right name. Here are some sources you might try:

Want to find a standard character name? Use a baby name dictionary to search by letter, popularity and even definition.

This will generate names of many ethnicities and provide character traits to accompany them.

This generator is great for all things fantasy. There are countless categories and generators to choose from, and it’s not limited to characters either.

Also fantasy based, but not limited to fantasy, this can help you name characters, places, and items.

So there’s a few sites for you. And when in doubt, using Google to search for common names of different eras and styles will yield results as well. You can even mash together dictionary words or derive your own from the early root words. There are so many options and ways to find the right name, don’t despair. It’s out there somewhere!

Hawkeye Out. 

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