A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
50. Character names
Choosing the name for a character can be one of the difficult parts of planning a story. Some people love choosing their character names, while others (like myself) find it a grueling, miserable process. You can’t choose just any name that strikes your fancy; you have to think about who the character is, what they are, and what they represent. You want your readers to picture your character using the information you give them and be able to say, “Yeah, he/she definitely seems like a _____.”
Think about it for a moment. Would Eddard Stark seem so noble and admirable a character if he had been named Bob Smith? Would Harry Potter elicit the same feelings of familiarity and empathy if Rowling had named him Stan Tanner? Hell, would Christian Grey get so many crazy women’s motors running if he were named Walter Fitzgerald?
So we (presumably, unless we are naturally talented in this particular art) labor long and hard while working out what our characters names will be. I myself always have a hard time with this. When I was young and foolish I would always name my main characters after myself. I’ve used my real name, my nicknames, and my usernames in the past. Of course this is not an accepted practice in the real world of writing and is generally looked upon as a red light for wish fulfillment fantasies. These days I try to picture my characters and imagine names that suit them, the same way you might see a person walking down the street and guess what their name might be based only on their physical appearance. Sometimes I meet with success – the main character in my zombie apocalypse manuscript is Nancy King, and I can’t imagine her having any other name. Other times I have hiccups that won’t go away – the main character of my fantasy epic has had her name changed no fewer than four times and it still doesn’t sound right.
I think it’s almost like a game that you have to win before your story can be whole, and certain stories crank the difficulty of the game up to “Author Must Die” mode. But this is just another hurdle we must leap on the way to creating wonderful stories.