"Hello, My Name is ____."

Ah, characters. Those wonderfully complex people who dwell inside our beloved stories. Creating characters is one of my favorite things, from developing personalities to creating their individual quirks. Until I find myself tapping my fingers restlessly against my desk, staring at my words and descriptions, wondering what on earth am I supposed to name this character?

Let’s be honest. We’ve all been there. Choosing names for characters is like choosing a name for your child; it takes a lot of debating. I mean, not only does it have to be a name that you like, but it has to fit their personality, and appearance. Sometimes you find yourself with a character that just refuses to accept whatever names you attempt to bestow upon them. It’s frustrating. It’s hard. It’s also something that must be dealt with, at one point or another. That’s why, today, I’m going to be teaching y’all a few tips that I’ve picked up for naming characters.

Now, sometimes, we’ll just name characters something that we like or that sounds cool. Other times, however, we either run out of names, decide we want something that actually means something relevant, or we can’t find a name that really fits.

I have three main methods for naming characters, each of which I use depending on what I’m writing and what role the character plays. I’ll explain more on that after each one, to give you an idea of my naming rituals.

1. Descriptions

The first thing that I’m going to talk about is naming characters for descriptive meaning. Sometimes, symbolic and meaningful names can restate their character and enforce the traits that you want to define in them. The meanings can also be used to reference appearance if they are a unique character appearance-wise.
For example, if you are writing about a new race or a group of people, and one character has a defining feature that makes them different from everyone else, like a different hair or eye-color, naming them something to do with that can reinforce that trait. 
I'm also going to be giving y'all some examples of each, both as suggestions and to further clarify.

Names relating to hair color:

Devany: “dark haired”
Finn: “fair or white”
Blake: “fair-haired” or “dark”

Names with color meanings:

Harkin: “dark red”
Blaine: “yellow”
Chloe: “green shoot”
Gavin: “white hawk”

Names that are actually colors/shades:

Sky (blue)
Amber (orange/red)
Heather (purple)
Slate (gray)
Hazel (brown)
Rose (pink)

Names with physically descriptive meanings:

Grant: “tall”
Keegan: “small and fiery”
Calla: “beautiful”
Aden: “handsome, adorned”

As for personality traits, it’s the same thing, really. I have named several characters for their main personality trait, or at least something that was a large aspect of who they are. Examples of this from my novel would be one of the main characters, Eisley, who’s name literally translates to mean “cheerful”. My reasons for choosing that name span just beyond highlighting the fact that she is a cheerful person, but for also for those relating to her character growth.

Names with personality meanings:

Briana: “strong, virtuous, honorable”
Felix: “happy, fortunate”
Alyssa: “noble”
Clarissa: “bright” (could mean intelligent, optimistic, or however else you’d like to define it)
Kayne: “intelligent”

These are probably the names I use the most, as they are generally the easiest to pick and find. I'll use these for the main cast of characters in generally, although some of the more minor ones I'll use the second method.

2. Roles

Now, moving on, the next method I’ve got is naming characters for their roles. This one works in two ways, both for physical roles, such as professions or duties, or story roles.
Examples for the first would be naming someone a name that relates to what they do or some of their abilities. This can go from names that mean “warrior”, “hero”, or anything of that sort, to those that refer to the person’s position, such as a leader. Many names have quite literal meanings, and so it isn’t too difficult to find one if you want to be literal with your names. Highlighting abilities would be names that refer to skills or strengths. Other examples of this would be naming characters with supernatural powers (whether they are superheroes or magical beings), with names corresponding to their powers.

Names with role meanings:

Griffith: “chief warrior”
Erica: “eternal ruler”
Kainda: “hunter’s daughter”
Sacha: “man’s defender”
Ryder: “cavalryman, messenger”

Names referring to ability, skill, or strength:

Brenda: “sword, blade of a sword”
Fletcher: “maker of arrows”
Gerald: “ruler with the spear”

Names that I might suggest for powers-users:

Aidan: “fire”
Tierra: “earth”
Maxwell: “great stream”
Aura: “air”
Isa: “ice”
Taren: “thunder”
Ilene: “light”
Colden: “dark valley”

Story role names, on the other hand, are a little different. These names will either clearly state the role of the character, whether they are the hero, mentor, or villain, or they will more subtly hint at a role they may come to play later on. Here, have some examples:

Names referring to story roles:

Gabrielle: “hero of God”
Thana: “death”
Monica: “advisor”
Dakota: “friendly one”

As I said, I will generally use these for more minor characters, or at least those who are not in the spotlight as much. Occasionally I will use this method for supporting characters, but not always.

3. Meaning

Okay, third and finally, the last main method I use for naming is off of personal meaning. This one is a little more difficult to explain. Basically, this is when my naming goes beyond anything to do with the character, except perhaps what they mean to me. My best example of this is my main character in my novel, Ashlyn. Her name means “dream”, because that’s what she is to me, in so many ways. First off, she is the result of my childhood, in a way. I never would have had the idea for my novel, or Ashlyn, if it weren’t for games I played with my sisters when we were young. We were not your typical girls. Instead of playing with dolls or dress up or doing anything remotely girly, we played video games and with LEGOs. Instead of pretending to be princesses or something like that, we were superheroes and secret agents. Our imagined powers and roles spawned the idea in my head of writing a superhero novel, as incredibly cheesy and silly that sounds.
Secondly, Ashlyn represents my dream of becoming a writer. That book and those characters are what I hope to be my ticket into the world as a published author. As the main character, she’s the driving force behind that dream.
Last, but certainly not least, and on a very different level, Ashlyn represents who I dream I could be. Well, after she gets past her Lie (which I discussed in my last post), that is. Still, she is largely based off of my own personality and experiences, and all that I wish I could be. Not in the sense of becoming a superhero (although that would be awesome), but in the sense that there are things my wonderful main character accomplishes that I wish I could. Her struggles and fears reflect my own in many ways, but, of course, she gets through them in a slightly less messy way than I think I ever have or will.
It may seem cheesy, and corny, but to me, it means so much more than anyone will truly understand. Maybe, this third method is a little too over-the-top for most, but some characters are just that special to us. As writers and readers, we live so many lives through those of our characters and stories.
I’m not giving examples for this one, simply because these kind of names depend entirely on the person. This doesn’t just go for main characters or heroes, either. Instead of symbolizing dreams and hopes, maybe the villain symbolizes some of your fears, or past. Maybe one of the supporting characters represents something someone has done to or for you. These kind of names could mean anything, so long as they mean something to you.

So, that’s it! Arella’s Top Three Methods of Naming Characters. I hope this has been some help to y’all. As a reward for completing this post, and a celebration of what is now officially my six-week anniversary as an Intern of Elysian, here’s some of the worst names I have ever seen in my life, because they honestly make me laugh. And yes, these are actually things that people named their children. Enjoy:

(“So, I heard you’re unique.” “Yeah, I’munique.”)

(I have no idea how you would pronounce this, and this is sadly not a one-time thing)

(Yes, let’s name our child after a brand. Great idea)

Olive Garden 
(Supposedly, the dad wanted to name her “Garden”, but the mom wanted “Olive”. This was their compromise.)

(This is when you have taken creative spelling to a whole new, and very wrong level. It’s pronounced Maverick. Why?)

(This is a spelling of “Secret”. *cue internal screaming”)

(I get it, double letters are cool, but this is a little bit excessive.)

There are so many more of these that it's a little sick. Plus, it's a good idea stop before I hit the celebrity names, because we all know how amazing those are, right?
Have a wonderful week, my friends, and feel free to share these atrocious names with your friends and family.


Until Next Time, Your Sister in Writing and Christ, 
~Arella Noreen

1 comment:

  1. Those are great methods for getting names!
    Those are horrible names! Thanks for the laugh and the advice.
    Who names their child Nova? It was in the top 200 one year!
    God bless you.