Naming a character is obviously very important in any storyline. The name is, of course, what identifies the character, but not just by way of telling who’s who. The name can also convey the character’s attitude/personality or even give a sense premonition of what that character is destined for. Here I will discuss tips and methods on how to name characters for your story. This isn’t necessarily an official set of rules, but it’s a method I’ve used and notice various storytellers use. Interestingly enough, these suggestions can even help name pets and babies :) There are no strict rules to naming characters. The whole point of the matter is to get the mood or message across. So it doesn’t really matter what method you use as long as it works for you.
When picking out names for your characters, take the time to choose. It is important to pick an appropriate name and, when well picked, it has a greater impact than one that is ill suited. For example, say the hero of your story is practically another superman. You most likely would not want to name this character Billy Bob (unless you want to convey humor, simplicity, or something really out of the ordinary). For an extraordinary character usually calls for an extraordinary name, right? In my personal opinion, that simply depends and what it depends on is the mood or the message of the story or character.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself. What kind of presence does this character have? What I mean by presence is, does the person have a sense of darkness or evil? Like a typical villain. Does the person seem to have a very cheery disposition? Or perhaps a sad one. You may pick out a name that seems to “fit the mood” which is okay, because when people read or hear that character’s name they tend to think of the mood or some particular images that the name represents. True, not everyone is going to know the meaning of the character’s name, but a lot of times just the sound of the name gives a sense of the character’s nature. When you read, hear or think of the name – let’s say – Nicodemus, just take a moment to think on that name. What comes to your mind? What kind of person do you think this is? You may get an image or a sense of ancient times, wisdom, knowledgeable persons, magicians, mysticism, historic or fantasy themes. Am I correct? This is what I call playing by ear.
Another commonly used method by many writers is the meaning method. This is simply picking out a name specifically for it’s meaning. Or in other words, you pick names out for their actual meaning, instead of the way it sounds. For example, say if a female character of a story has had many tragedies in her lifetime and she has a depression problem. A name that would probably fit would be Deirdre (Celtic/welsh for sorrow), because she is sad the majority of the time. Another good example, the hero of the story has a fiery temper and is very active, you may pick names that either means this attitude literally or you could use one that symbolically could represent this person’s character. This may be called named by association or similarity (also can be known as symbolic names) and is considered a sub-method.
Another method is named by pre-fated destiny, that is, the character has a name that may give some clue as to what happens to them or what they will do. An example is character that has a fear of some kind, perhaps later during the storyline the character will learn to conquer this fear. You may give a name that means conquering.
Another method is named by purpose or profession because the same application can be done for those whose name meaning is that of what they do or why they are there in the story. Here’s an example, say if a character’s main purpose is to be the healer, then you may want to pick names that means healer in some way. Also to take note that you don’t have to pick names with meanings that literally means what they are or do. Like in the case of the healer character, you may not use one that literally means healer, you might use something more specific like doctor, nurse, or something not so specific like “heals others”, caretaker, etc.
Here’s an interesting method that can also be used, named by theme(s). One theme, named by irony, the character may be named as something totally opposite of what they may seem. One good example is a cartoon series that I know of called Courage: the Cowardly Dog. The title itself is pretty much self-explanatory. A lot of times this method is used to convey humor, but if done right, it can be used to convey tragedy, other themes or exactly what the purpose is…irony. Other subject matter similar to this (not irony itself, but a theme) could be named by tragedy (a character is named for a tragic past or a tragic future), named by heroism (a character with either a heroic name or named after some act of heroism in the past or future), or named by pretense (a character named in false or deceptive manner).
Another method used in some cases is literal naming. Basically you would name the character something that is literally named that. Ex. – character has red hair may be named Red. Or the purpose of naming that character could be named because of his personality. More examples are characters named after food, objects, animals, etc. Like in Ramna, there are characters named Shampoo and Cologne (thus literally object names). Some characters could be named after flowers, like sometimes in real life or for whatever reason you need. In many anime, they build their stories around character with names of everyday things. In Sorcerer Hunters (aka Spell Wars) you may or may not notice that the majority, if not all, the characters are named after foods. In those cases, it probably has nothing to do with the character personality nor physical appearance but the author’s preference.
Tips to Creating Names
There many ways to create a unique name. In fact, in many cultures, it is traditional to give a child a unique name. Here I will list several methods that I know of. First you gotta figure out what kind of name you want. Do you want one with an actual meaning to it? Do you want to base your name on someone or something? Or do you just want a name that sounds good? This is important to answer, because if you want a name with an actual meaning, then you would need to prepare to do a lot of research. Getting a name that just sound great to you would take less time and hassle. Unless you’re picky:) Considering how many names there are in this world, it should not surprise you if you actually come up with a name that already exists.
Defined as switching around letters within a word or another name to create a new word or name, anagrams are best used if you just want an interesting sounding name. It’s not often that anagrams will have the actual meaning your going for unless you happen to have the letters to make a name like that. Technically it’s more along the lines of basing what your name came from. Like say you want the meaning based on “dragon”. Switching around the letters you could come up with names like “Gardon”, “Androg”, “Dargon”. True, they sound a little weird, but I’m just giving examples..^_^ That’s about the closest you get by actually basing on meaning. Either using the literal word or the same word in another language. Like another language word for dragon is Tatsu (japanese). And you can switch it around to something like “Satut”, “Sutat”, “Tutas”, or even “Statu”. In anagrams, the name can be created from animals, ideals or even a person you admire:) In a lot of cases you can do this towards more than one word or name. Whether your making more than one name or one whole name out of several is up to you.
Let’s use actual names for an example. Melinda and Ariel can be mixed up as Arlian or Meridan Leil. In this case I had to take off some letters or it wouldn’t sound right (at least to me..^_^) on the first one. Let’s try using words. Peace and Bird could become Cepria or Bedi Caper, depending on whether you would use all letters or remove excess, but in general anagrams are words, phrases or names that are literally using all the letters in the word/words used.
Here’s an interesting method. This is where you take one part of a name or word and add it to another word or name. One or both could be broken down and added together to create something new. I’ve done this for one of my online (also IRL) buddy. I’m not gonna say what her name is:) It’s unique to her..^_^ But I will explain how you can make your own this way:) Of course you simply have to adjust how you mix the name so that it sound not only correct, but is also pronounceable.
You can create a unique name using a specific origin. Like say you want a Chinese name, you would have to look up and research Chinese words or names and figure how to create a new one by mixing up what you want together. Depending on what origin you use, you would, in some cases, have to have at least some understanding of the way they set up their names. As mentioned, this is where the research comes in. Now here I’ll not get into how each culture works on names, because that’ll be a whole section onto itself. If you want to create a new name based off language, gotta do your research and careful how you combine since, like the Asian culture, what you put together may originally mean what you are looking for separately but when put together may mean something else entirely..^^;
You can in a lot of cases, mix different names from different origins. Let’s say you use the name Victor (Latin for victory) and the name Lander (Greek for lion man) and com up with something like Vicander, Lavictor, or Vandor. Another example, we’ll use Faye (Celtic for fairy or fairy folk) and Luna (Latin for moon). You could get Faluna, Fayena, or even Lufaye. Now let’s say you want to use actual words. Here’s some good examples, Rose and Pixie could become Roxie.
Apheresis is dropping unaccented syllables from the beginning of a word or name. For example, Matilda can become Tilda. Apocopation is the opposite, dropping unaccented syllables from the end of a word or name. Another example, Elisabeth to Elisa. This method can be used alone or after you have used other methods to create a new name to further downsize it (especially if you wound up with a really long one:) But this method is commonly used for giving nicknames.
After doing any of the above you may want to create a diminutive by dropping the last syllable and adding a pet ending. Example, -ette added to Anna could become Annette and etc. There are dozen of name ending that can be used. If you’ve noticed, any name can be rearranged to become feminine or masculine, doesn’t matter the gender sound of the name. This method is one of the common used one for that. For example, John in feminine form is Jonna, Jonni, etc. Mary in masculine form is Marren, Marnett, etc.
Here’s a list of common ending for females: -ette, -ir, ie, -ia, -a, -iana, -anna, -anne and -ana, etc.
Here’s a list of common ending for males: -ett, -son, -rty, -ten, -ton, -le, -ris, -ston, -win and -rick, etc.
Hybrid would be using two or more methods mentioned above. With using the hybrid method, you can create some very interesting name. Let’s use some of the examples in the above method as examples for this method. Lufaye from the name combining and the diminutive – ette and you’d get Lufayette. Or use the diminutive -ten and get Lufayeten.
Using the apheresis’ Tilda with anagram Arlien and you get Tildarlien. There’s many ways to go about it, so just use what works for ya :)