This is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog-hop, designed to help encourage authors and foster discussions about writing topics across the internet and the world. This month’s question is “What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names”
For me, it’s definitely coming up with a book title. Because I’m primarily writing a series, I want the titles to all work together, to where they sound like they’re part of a “family” of books. And then, I want them to be memorable, to not be something already used by another writer (at least, not on the blockbuster level). I don’t want to be one of 5 or 10 authors who wrote a book by the same name if possible.
By comparison, coming up with names is simple. I usually start with a feel for who the character is, what sort of person they seem to be, and with that comes an idea as to the length of their name, whether they go by a nickname, and which letter their name starts with. Then it’s just a matter of hunting through names that start with that letter until I find the right one (if a name doesn’t pop into my head to begin with). Some names I’ve created on my own and some I’ve found from lists, just depending on how unusual a character is and what sort of feel I want for them.
Here are four things to think about when naming characters:
- Are they a formal or informal person? It can be fun to give a fun-loving person a stuffy name, like Alexandrina or Archibald, but you have to keep in mind that the characters might choose to change their names or go by a nickname or even their middle name if they’re saddled with something they don’t like.
- Has the name been used in your genre? This doesn’t mean you can’t have a Jane or Elizabeth or Mary if you’re writing romance, but if it’s unique and was used in a popular book, you might consider picking something else. For example, you might not want a Tris in a fantasy story, and you might want to avoid Bellas if your story has anything to do with vampires. Anything that makes readers think about another book while reading your book is probably not ideal.
- Does the name work with your goals for that character? If a name creates too strong a connotation, you might spend the whole book fighting your readers’ initial impressions. For example, if you name someone “Honey Apple” and she’s supposed to be this non-nonsense character, you might get a lot of jokes out of it…but you also might make it hard for your readers to see Honey as this tough, capable person. Your name selection might make the hurdle of believability and character “appropriateness” just a little too hard.
- Is it pronounceable? If you want a character to be likable, you should probably pick a likable name, something that readers can pronounce in their heads as they read it. Otherwise, every time they see it, some of them will groan and try to remember if something like GIlyaxzyi is pronounced as Gly-ax-yigh or Gl-yax-yee or even Galaxy (if they don’t just see that name and run.)
On that note, consider a simplified spelling or standard spelling for characters. There’s no need to have Cassandra to be Kahsahndrah unless you’re creating a culture where the simplified spelling wouldn’t fit (and even then, you might be able to do with Kasandrah, to where one “h” creates the flavor and the rest disappear). The easier it is for readers to read and enjoy your story, the better.
Copyright 2018 Andrea Lundgren