Question: How do you pick character names?

Posted on: July 17, 2017


How do you pick character names?

Every writer has a different method of selecting names for their characters. I was told early on, that I should write what I know, but don’t use a person’s real name. Yes, you can get sued. So if the character was based on a real person, I would change the name slightly so I could personally keep the characters straight in my head. Dan would become Don; Alice would be Anna, and so on. I especially changed names if I had the character do things or act in ways the real person would never do. When I do use someone’s real name, it’s with permission.

As I grew as a writer, I started creating totally fictional characters.  I also started running out of names. I read somewhere that a writer’s best friend was a baby name book.  It has been invaluable! I also keep a list of names that I plain like! Time Shadows is filled with those names for no other reason than I like the way they sound or the image they bring to me.

There are times too, that I want to pay honor to someone. In The Journal: Crimson Skies, I introduced several new characters. James Geneva is my nephew who died several years ago, now he lives on.  Also in Crimson Skies I created the four nuns and the priest.  In my family there are four girls and a boy.  I gave the nuns and priest our middle names. In case anyone is wondering, Sister Doris was me, so I killed myself off. As an interesting side note, not one of my siblings caught the connection.

Another thing I was taught early on was to create a character biography sheet: a list of that character’s information, description, history, and such. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to see if I gave “X” blue eyes or hazel eyes.  Consistency matters!


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