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Monday, January 22, 2007

Character names

Names mean something. Everybody knows that. Your reader, however, will not always know that Amaterasu means “shining over heaven.”

Be sensible in naming your characters. It’s good if you can pick a name that means something significant to the story or the character’s personality, however don’t go overboard. Most readers don’t really know what most English names mean.

Also think about how that name falls in a historical context. A name like “Agatha” was popular many years ago, whereas “Kaitlyn” is more modern. Therefore, the initial picture in a reader’s mind when they see the name “Agatha” might not be the buxom teenager she actually is (and my apologies to any buxom young teens named Agatha).

Don’t take alliteration too far. It can be humorous, but don’t make a name that will cause your readers to stumble in their reading flow. “Petunia Petrucci” might be funny, but if your reader is taken out of the story every time they see the word Petunia (especially if she’s some hulking Nurse Ratched), that’s not good. More important than a name is a smooth, riveting reading flow.

Remember that names can always be changed, too. The “find” and “replace” feature on word processing programs is wonderful.

Get input from your friends, whether writers or normals—er, non-writers. They can tell you if they like a name or not for your character.

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