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- Tip -

What to name your characters

I am writing a story, and my pencil suddenly slows.

“What should I call this character?” I ask myself.  Naming a character is significant. Names are so important.  In a story, names are repeated over and over.

Furthermore, even one tiny four-lettered name can carry story with it—story that I did not choose!  This is because many names have a specific meaning.  For example, Sara means “princess” or “lady,” and Arthur means “noble” or “bear.”

Yet, what if, in my story, I intend to create a Sara who is homely and cruel?  If my reader happens to know the meaning of the name Sara, would they at first see a lovely lady where I intend to create a crooked villain?  And what about creating a character named Arthur?  Don’t forget that the reader might be an admirer of a famous bespectacled aardvark named Arthur.  And another reader might have recently read a book on King Arthur and his fight against invading Saxons.

Of course, this does not mean that a character named Arthur can only be an aardvark or a king.  These past circumstances simply mean that the name might come with some story; a reader might see something first, before they begin to know the Arthur that I plan to invent.

And I’ll say just a little bit more about character names, because they are so enjoyable to consider!

* Some names are simply fun to say (Pip, Rupert, Veruca!), and these names are ideal for a lighthearted character.

* I can search for names in interesting places like history books, and other books I have read.

* I can invent not just the character but the name to go with him!  For example, if a best friend’s name is Caleb, you might create a warrior for your story named Belac, which is Caleb spelled backwards!

New idea:  Let us ponder the names we give to our characters.  We can relish the responsibility!  We can research what names mean and inspect who has had them before.  Names often feel right, so we just need to search for what feels right.

Finally, if just the right name cannot be found, we can make one up.


This tip was inspired by Caleb from Colorado Springs.

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The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories