I subscribed to The Write Life several months ago. They’re a great resource, particularly for advice on freelance writing and blogging. One of the articles that came up in today’s newsletter was this:
Anyone who’s ever played a video game where you name your character knows this is the most difficult part. I don’t care how tough Urthemiel thinks he is, I put more thought and strategy into trying to come up with a name for the Hero of Ferelden (and after all that, they made me come up with a name for her dog, too). In this article, Andre Cruz gives some great sources of inspiration for coming up with character names.
Usually my character names come pretty naturally once I come up with a plan or bio. The character has a certain personality, and the name usually falls into place based on certain qualities the character has. For some trickier characters, particularly those from historical or foreign settings, I’ve found baby name sites to be helpful. I also have a tendency to utilize a lot of symbolism in my characters’ names, so I’ve spent hours scrolling through baby names looking for the one with the perfect sound and meaning.
Something I always keep in mind is how the name sounds. This is especially important for my protagonists and villains. For one, I like to treat every word I write as if I would have to read it aloud. If I don’t like saying it, I don’t like using it – doubly so for important names. The protagonist’s name (if you write in third-person as I tend to) is one of the most commonly repeated names in the story, so it shouldn’t sound out of place. My villains tend to have more evil-sounding names. Since I have a phobia of snakes, my villain names tend to have lingering “s” sounds (such as one of my favorite villains I ever wrote, Lucian Squalo).
I hadn’t thought about using the pet and street name combo before (#2 in Cruz’s article). Somehow, the gripping tale of “Brutus Revere” never really crossed my mind as something I had to write. Well, I guess I have to now…