Picking my character’s name is both one of my favorite things to do when writing a book as well as one of the things I struggle with the most. It’s as hard as it was to name my children. I do have a process. My problem is that, until I’m completely satisfied, I’ll do that process again and again until I have several good names that could work. And then I can’t choose!
I’ll use my current WIP as an example as I share my process. I’m currently writing the fourth and final book of the Shadowcat Nation series (the third book is in my editor’s hands now) and I’m STILL stuck on the name for my heroine.
Step 1: Character’s Physical Description
I am a big believer that name should match the person. From a looks perspective, I’ll admit that this is influenced by personal biases. For example, Sarah’s are blond to me because one of the prettiest girls in my high school was named Sarah.
My Current WIP: My character is tall and slender with dark hair. She has a delicate face with high cheek bones and eyes that appear brown from far away but can look grey or even golden up close and depending on what she’s wearing.
Step 2: Character’s Personality
Even more than the physical description, I believe personality also matches a name. Who here hasn’t had a name they either loved or hated because of someone they knew? Who doesn’t think of Eugene as sort of nerdy, Jenny as All-American, Muffy as a spoilt rich girl, and Chaz as a tool?
My Current WIP: This heroine will start out seeming meek, easily used/disregarded, and out of place. But our heroine will have a secret that she can’t tell anyone (two secrets really) and she’s much stronger than she at first appears. She is, in truth, a sassy bad-ass.
Step 3: Cultural Elements
I LOVE being able to use beautiful names from other cultures when I get the chance. This includes common names today, mythological names, historical names, and so forth. In the Shadowcat Nation series so far I’ve had Andromeda (Greek), Sarai (Biblical), and Tieryn (Irish). I try to pick cultures relevant to my character, but sometimes I pick names because I just like them.
My Current WIP: My heroine lives in Arizona and has (we think) a Mexican background. However (very minor spoiler here) there’s some Russian influence in her life. So I’m looking at names from both cultures.
Step 4: Character’s Development
You have to think about how your character may change through the course of the book. This part makes me think of my dog. I had a German Shepherd that I got as a puppy. I was tempted to name him some cute puppy name, but I knew he’d eventually become a 100lb beast. The name I picked needed to grow with him.
My Current WIP: As I mentioned, this character moves from meek to bad ass in a relatively quick progression.
Step 5: Other Considerations
I take into consideration other factors. Sometimes these are specific to the series, sometimes to the character, sometimes to my writing in general. Some examples include:
- Meaning of the name
- Similarity to other names in the series/book
- Similarity to names of ANY characters I’ve written previously
- Is the name being used as part of the title?
- How do the names of my hero and heroine sound together?
- Could I write/read this name over and over and over?
My Current WIP: This name is part of the title. It will be ???????’s Faith. I can’t reveal the hero’s name at this point because it will give away something important in book 3.
I am holding a vote for the name of this upcoming character. If you’d like to help me pick the name for my heroine, please go vote for your favorite at: https://www.playbuzz.com/abigailowen10/help-me-name-my-next-character