THE ART OF NAMING CHARACTERS

Cornelius Cornwall stepped into the corral, tipped his Stetson low, and headed for the proud black stallion two of his men held by ropes. From the look in the stallion’s eyes, Cornelius knew he faced a hard day of breaking ahead.

Maybe it’s just me, but the name “Cornelius” doesn’t fit with the image in my mind of a rough, tough cowboy. “Cord” would, or “Dexter,” or “Wade” would, as more fitting examples. The point is you need to really consider what all goes into choosing a proper name for your characters. Personally, I think choosing a character’s name is harder than choosing your own child’s name.

Here are some things to consider when deciding on a character’s name:

  1. Gender
  2. Race or ethnicity
  3. Time period in which he/she lives, an age-appropriate name
  4. Personality traits
  5. Ease of pronunciation for the reader
  6. Role in the storyline: hero or heroine or villain
  7. Possibly the meaning of the name
  8. How the character feels about his/her name

Sources for finding names:

  1. Baby name books
  2. Online name lists
  3. Phone books

Some of my favorite online links for names:

Three of my favorite book sources:

  • Dictionary of Surnames by Basil Cottle
  • The Name Book by Pierre Le Rouzic
  • The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.