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Saturday, 24 March 2018

How to Name a Character

the-little-wedding-island, jaimie-admans, book, blog-tour

Naming characters is the part of writing that I dread most. It goes one of two ways for me – either their names are there instantly and the characters have named themselves before I’ve even started planning, or I have absolutely no idea what to call them and often don’t figure it out until much later in the book.

Naming the main characters is pretty essential, but for side characters, I often have monikers like Friend 1 and Neighbour 3 right until I’m polishing the first draft to submit. Sometimes I get so attached to these names that I’d actually like to keep them!

I have a stack of baby naming books and lots of baby name websites bookmarked, and I’ve recently started to keep a list of potential names whenever I hear something unusual or something that I think would fit a character in the future, which has been so helpful that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!

the-little-wedding-island, jaimie-admans, book

What’s even more frustrating is when you find the perfect name for a character, and then realise that you actually know someone with that name, and that person is going to think the character is named after them. It might be okay if the character is nice, but what if you use their name for a villain and they take it as an insult? Character names are an unexpected minefield in this area, and with most names, you can find yourself with a tenuous connection to even the most random of names. One of my mum’s friends was annoyed once because I’d given a bad guy the same name as her grandson. How about the work colleague who was convinced I fancied him because I’d ‘named a character after him’? I hadn’t. He just happened to have the same name that fitted the character, and once names fit a character, it’s very hard to change them.

In The Little Wedding Island, Bonnie was one of the easy ones who named herself instantly, but Rohan had a different name to start with. I loved it, but my editor hated it so I had to rename him. It took me forever to find his new name. He was initially Rowan, but as I was writing, all that was coming to mind was Rowan Atkinson – IE: Mr Bean. For as brilliant as that show is, Mr Bean is not exactly who you want to be picturing for a dashing romantic hero, is he?

By that point, I didn’t want to change his name again, but I knew that if I was picturing Mr Bean then readers would be too. I looked up similar names and came across the spelling with the ‘h’, and it all clicked into place.

So as someone who is terrible at naming characters, these are my top tips: keep a list of any names you come across that might work in future stories, and don’t name characters after Mr Bean – it’s not a pretty sight!

Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots. She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read!

The Little Wedding Island is available to buy now. For more about Jaimie and her writing, you can visit her website.

How would you name a character? Let me know in the comments below!

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