I’ve heard too many writers talk about how choosing character names are one of the hardest parts in the writing process. I, personally, don’t agree, but I do know several writers who do. I thought that instead of going over the generic How To Name Your Characters™, I could break it down a little more and show you how to name your characters with a little more meaning.
One of my favourite ways to do this is fairly simple. You take a word or a name and look at its connotation, and see if it’s right for your character. For those who don’t know, a connotation is a feeling or thought associated with a word. For example, if you had a sweet, compassionate character, you could name them Angel! And on the flip side, a character with raven hair, black eyes, and dark skin, could be named Ash.
Continuing on with connotations, you could use a more personal one. This might not resonate with your readers, but it can help you understand your character better and might even help you empathize with them. For example, almost every single one of my protagonists’ middle names are a tribute to a character I really like. Ex. Shayne Ian Adkison. A character from EnigmaWing’s Breaking Free.
Another really interesting way to give significance, and one that I see far too little, is foreshadowing. You can be blunt: Say a character gets trapped in a fire. It gets nasty, and they don’t make it out. Then ten chapters later, the readers find out that character survived. Could they be named Phoenix?
Let’s take a moment to be totally obvious here. What easier way to give your character a name with meaning than choosing a name for the meaning? Devland, for example, means misfortune. Let’s get a little deeper. Say you have a character who comes into play, eh, maybe half way into the book. You already have planned out that this particular character will take a vital role in the climax and resolution of your story. Hell- Maybe they plan the whole thing. Maybe they’re the one to give your protagonist all the ideas. Maybe this character simply follows the protagonist’s instructions, and kicks ass while doing this.
You have plenty of options for naming this character! For instance, you could name them Pax- After Pax Romana, latin for Roman Peace, which was a long period of time which wrought peace and tranquility. Or you could go a little subtler and name them Roman.
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