Writing, page 1: Name your own character


Welcome (wherein I introduce the post’s theme)

This is the first installment of a planned series on creative writing. I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin, so I thought I’d start with something basic and work from there: naming your character.

Based on the writing forums I’ve been to, this is a common problem. No one wants to pick a dumb name. No one wants her rugged action hero to be named Norman van Wussingly. When it comes to naming characters, I use either the pop culture method or  the phone book.

The pop culture method consists of borrowing from your favorite, you know, pop culture references. Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, named alter ego Clark Kent after actors Clark Gable and Kent Taylor.

Real world experience (wherein I confess to having done the thing I am writing about)

I named the main character of my novel Bulletproof Werewolf (unpublished as of now), Elizabeth Anderson, after X-Files actress Gillian Anderson and a middle school classmate who despised the shortening of her name to Liz . . . a character trait I passed on to my protagonist.

Back to it (wherein I go back to the post”s theme)

The phone book method consists of opening a phone book at random, closing your eyes, and pointing at a name. This is what I sometimes do when I’m stuck for a supporting character’s name. Be careful, though: once, in my local phone book, I came across the name Bruce Wayne.

You can also try pairing your character’s name with his or her personality. A strong masculine name like Nick works for a detective character. Bessie makes me think of  a squat pioneer woman who kills chickens with her bare hands.

If you want to watch an offbeat movie about writers (and about naming fantasy characters) check out Gentlemen Broncos. It’s weird, and not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

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2 thoughts on “Writing, page 1: Name your own character

Add yours

  1. I’ve never tried the phone book method, and the combo method is awesome. I didn’t know that about Clark Kent. Very cool. Supporting characters are the hardest to name, for me, because I have a lot of them in each book and I am running out of choices, LOL. Helpful post 🙂

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