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“You can have a very intense relationship with fictional characters because they are in your own head.” ~ J. K. Rowling
Is your imagination running wild? Are you ready with a story to author your novel or short story? If yes, there is something you need to do first. You need to think of names for your fictional characters. Your novel or piece of fiction is your own creation, your own brainchild. So, you must think of creative ways to write names for your characters, main protagonist, antagonist and others.
“A writer often wants to change a reader’s perception about the world, which is a political act. But we have to work through character, so helping the reader to feel close to fictional characters is the gate through which we have to usher the reader.” ~ Caryl Phillips
Why is it so important to develop characters?
Character development is a craft on its own, and its quest begins with a suitable name. You may think what is in a name? But you will be surprised to know that giving suitable names to fictional characters has an impact on the popularity of the work of fiction. It is your character’s personality, depth and the capacity to motivate readers throughout the story, which eventually determines the success of an author.
Characters should be three-dimensional, unique and believable, for the readers to relate to them. The real attributes of a good fictional character are its personality, appearance and a backstory attached to them which creates a narrative about them, thus creating an interest in the minds of readers. Giving suitable names to characters is just the beginning for any writer. This is the writer’s biggest test. Your character should have a name which suits the personality he/she is representing. If your character is a strong one, make sure you choose a strong sounding name. So start thinking of creative ways to name your characters.
Iconic characters from the world of fiction
When I talk about fictional characters, aren’t you reminded of the following names from all times? The popularity of these characters speaks for themselves. The names listed below are iconic and in total agreement with the personalities they represent, which is why the authors became a sensation. They could think of creative ways to write the names of their characters.
Sherlock Holmes, a detective character created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
James Bond, a character who is a British Secret Service agent created by author Ian Fleming in 1953.
Harry Potter, a fictional character (larger than life), also the titular protagonist in JK Rowling’s series of eponymous novels.
Scarlett O’Hara, the fictional character and the protagonist in the novel, ‘Gone with the Wind’, written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936.
Anyone who doesn’t know Mickey Mouse? Mickey is one of the world’s most recognizable fictional characters, a cartoon character created in 1928 at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Kids recognise this mouse as the one who typically wears red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves.
Another very popular character is Superman, a fictional superhero, who first appeared in American comic books published by DC Comics. Writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster created this character.
Elizabeth Bennet, who is another famous fictional character created by Jane Austen in her novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Who can forget the popular fictional character Atticus Finch, remembered as the most humble character and father figure, in the novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee
Jane Eyre, the famous classic and Victorian age novel by Charlotte Brontë, is truly an inspirational character who has left a mark in the minds reade
How did famous authors name their characters?
All authors and novelists devise a lot of creative ways to write names for their characters. They often fret and fume over getting the right names for their main characters. These names give the characters their identity and hence have the potential to become iconic. Most authors don’t begin writing till they have coined a name for every character in their novel. George Martin in one of his interviews has admitted to this fact. So let us gain some insight into how these authors came up with such impressionable names for their characters. All of them found a variety of creative ways to name their main characters.
Hermione as we all know is J.K.Rowling’s witch heroine. Her name was coined from the famous Shakespearean play “The Winter’s Tale,” Granger is a common surname to use which is simple for the readers to pronounce. Most authors choose names which are metaphors for their character, however, the name Hermione was just the type of name Rowling thought Dentist parents would give their offspring. Now Hermione’s original surname was Puckle but Rowling had the view that it did not suit the character. So she chose the surname Granger, which became a hit with the readers.
We all know that the name Sherlock Holmes is synonymous with the most famous detective and symbolises intelligence and wit. A lot of theories are doing rounds on how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created this iconic name. The original name which was to be given was Sherrinford Hope, which Doyle’s first wife disapproved strongly of and told her husband to change it. Doyle then changed it to Holmes.
There is another theory floating about the name Sherlock, which is thought to be named after the famous violinist Alfred Sherlock. Yet others think that the name originated from a combination of two names which belonged to cricketers Frank Shacklock and Mordecai Sherwin. Doyle was a huge fan of these two players.
We all know that Brandon Stark is a fictional character in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series of epic fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin and its television adaptation ‘Game of Thrones’. George Martin has said in an interview that he can’t write about a character until it is named. Bran Stark is a strong character and hence named such, as his name fits the character. The word Stark means strong or sharp. So the name Bran Stark was most suitable, as in the story he was destined for greatness. He becomes the king of Westeros.
Who doesn’t know agent 007, James Bond in his sharp tuxedos, who was responsible for influencing pop culture? Ian Fleming was the creator of this larger than life character in 1952. It is said that he was hunting for a simple and plain-sounding name for this character. So how did he come up with James Bond? Well, you will find it interesting to know how it happened. Fleming was an avid bird watcher and was inspired by the ornithologist James Bond. He even met with the ornithologist and his wife and found the name ‘James Bond’ most suitable for his character who was going to be portrayed as ‘brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine’. So that is how Fleming came up with the perfect name he was envisioning for his character.
The success stories of such fictional characters do not end here. This is just to show how important it is to think of creative ways to write the names of your fictional characters. If you build your character successfully and can create an image in the minds of the readers, your characters also will be remembered as the iconic names above.
So how to go about it? Well, keep reading.
Watch this Video, hear it straight from the horse’s mouth! Listen to what the American novelist and short-story writer, screenwriter, and television producer, George Raymond Richard Martin say, about how he comes up with creative ways to write the names for his characters.
Baby naming Websites
So how do these famous novelists think of names for their characters? The first step is to visit some Baby naming websites which list the following:
- They offer both boy and girl names with the name meanings
- The trending names
- The most useful of all is that they contain those names that were popular during different years.
Believe me, thinking of appropriate names is not an easy job! You need to think of creative ways to write names. In this article, I am going to tell you about 6 creative ways to write the names of your fictional characters. But first, you must know the basic do’s and don’ts while naming characters for your story.
Follow the approaches given below and who knows you can come up with the inspirational ones!
Match the name of your character with his or her age. So how do you do this? You can begin by deciding the age of your character. Once that is done, deduct that age from the year your story is taking place. For example, if your story takes place in 1975, and your character is 35, then, he or she was born in 1940. If your character for eg, lives in the United Kingdom, you can use the internet to find the most popular names for that year.
The name should be easy to pronounce. Readers often pronounce words as and when they are reading. If they come across a long and complicated name, they will get distracted from the track as they will concentrate on pronouncing that word again and again so that they can repeat it successfully. This will deprive them of the fun of reading in the first place and they are not going to enjoy that. One thing is sure! They are not going to love you, the author, for that. So choose simple and catchy names, which are easy on the tongue.
Take your character’s background into consideration. You must remember your character’s ethnicity, history and geographic location while naming your character. You must also take care to be realistic enough to name the character as per the generation. For eg, a fifth-generation child born in London cannot have a vintage name. You must do your homework here, by searching the internet for the appropriate name in that period, for your character.
Avoid using similar-sounding names for 2 characters in your story. You need to be careful about this so that your readers do not get confused with the two characters who are named similarly. For eg, Carol and Caroline, Kris and Chris. In case your story consists of twin characters, you must ensure that both have unique names, and there is no chance of any confusion in the reader’s mind.
Sibling characters in your work of fiction must have the same style of names. This is the trend parents follow. If one child has the traditional name or some theme based name, the second child will also be named accordingly.
Make sure you consider the genre before you think of names for your character. Romantic novel characters can be given flowery names, while fictional characters from science fiction will have totally different names like Pluto.
Better to avoid famous name associations. It is better to avoid very famous names associated with a particular movie or some favourite character like Scarlett, Atticus etc.
Using variety is a creative way to decide the names of your fictional characters. Mixing long names with short names, ordinary names with unusual ones, and soft-sounding names with sharper-sounding ones are ways to come up with unique names. If your novel is set in modern times, avoid using too many trendy or unusual names. Variety indeed is the key to find creative ways to write names.
Using Alliteration is another creative way to write names. Some of the popular fictional characters using Alliteration are Donald Duck, Peter Pan.
The above are some basic tips you must remember to give appropriate names to your fictional characters. Now let us think of creative ways to write names. The prospect of applying our minds to create unique names is certainly exciting.
The 6 creative ways to name my fictional characters would be to use my imagination and let it run wild. Here is what I would do.
Permutation combination method – I will think of all random names which I like and write it on a piece of paper. Then I will mix and match these names to arrive at a first name and surname. The random names could be anything I like, which could be names from movies, name of a plant, name of any song, a place, a river, a lake, a city or any person I like. Let me think of a few random names I like and put it in the form of a table to arrive at a few combinations
Do you see the tabular column above? So based on ethnicity factor, you can come up with a lot of names using the above names by mixing and matching first names and surnames. For eg: Carol Harris, Viola Wilde, Bianca Monroe, Gary Keaton, Jade Brio, Ajay Tendulkar, Swick Bradman, Charles Nile, Volga Watson, Hazel Freddo
Indian name combinations from this table : Sahana Krishna, Prapti Prakash, Revati Vijay, Surya Prakash, Ranjani Ganesh.
This is just an example of how you can come up with many unique names by mixing and matching first names with surnames based on your story.
Be on the lookout for names from unexpected places. Yes, you never know how you can come up with unique names from most unexpected places like watching the list of credits in. TV show, film or documentary. Sometimes while driving, walking or travelling to any location you may notice some street names, or even names of rare plants or a place can motivate you to create a unique name for your character.
Sometimes you may find the unique names in books. Yes! books are a good source of uncommon names, which you must make a note of. An excellent idea is to flip through telephone directories or books on baby names as these two sources will never disappoint. You will certainly find the type of names you’re looking for. Books on mythology ( based on your storyline) may also throw up rare names.
Create the names using other words:
A creative way to write names of your fictional characters is by creating anagrams from common words. It is said that J.K Rowling created some of the unique character names in her popular Harry Potter series, by first describing a character and then creating an anagram from those descriptions.
Other creative ways to write names are:
- Names can be engineered by blending 2 names. For example, Carol and Josephine can be blended together to create two names:Caroline and Joseph. Using this technique can be real fun.
- Different spelling variations can create unique names. For example Caroline can be written as Carolyn, Michael as Mikhail
- Another creative way to write names is by rearranging names or scrambling them to create new unique names. Let us have some fun by scrambling our own name. However the rule is to use each letter only once. I will begin by trying with my name ‘Kala Suresh’. Creative ways to write my own name can create so many more names like Sureka Lash, Kesar Saluh, Rekha Susla. Want to try yours? You might come out with amazing combinations
Invent a totally new name.
In case you are writing a science fiction or a fantasy story, you can forget the basic names, rearranging them, scrambling them etc. Instead, you can come up with a new name which enters your brain for the first time. This is one of the most creative ways to write names. How to go about it? Here’s how
- Just open a new word doc and play with letters. Keep typing random letters till you come across a set of letters forming a good name. This way, you may come up with the most uncommon names. Exciting ? Do try it! The words, I discovered for myself by randomly typing letters are as follows:
Another creative way to write names is using scrabble letters. The advantage in using scrabble letters is that I can use proper nouns to my heart’s content. I will try to pick up the unusual combinations of names using the rare alphabets like Z, Q, J and score points too.
You can try and create a new name by misspelling existing names. For example, take the name Benjamin. You can misspell this name and create new names like Benjamin, Bemanier.
Another method to create names is by changing the gender of names . This way, a male name can become a female name and vice versa. However,please note that not all names can be changed such. For example, Joseph can become Josephine.
Last but not the least, we can get creative names for your characters by using the name generator. There are many good websites available for generating names of fictional characters, All we need to do is to select options from Medieval names, Fantasy names, God names, names required in a particular language, archetypes. Just click on the options and get a lot of suggestions. Pick the name you like. It is as easy as that.
Once you have your plot ready, you can work on these creative ways to write the names of your fictional characters and come up with unique names. Here is your chance to create a memorable character like the famous authors did. Please make sure that these names you created are not present merely on paper. Bring your characters to life. You have a lot of takeaways from here.
Can you take a cue from here and think of creative ways to write names? You know of various means to do that. You never know when you can come up with unique names. Always keep a piece of paper and a pen ready to jot down any names you find, which can just induce life into your characters. You may be inspired by names of streets, names of places, buildings or anything around you. You can get inspired by people whom you admire and have a great regard for. All you need to do is tweak these names, and mix and match with some common surnames.
All the best writers for your next story with unique fictional character names.
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