It sounds rather simple, naming a character. But it’s not always easy coming up with the perfect name for the imperfect character. So what’s a writer to do? How does a writer decide what name to attach to a character, and why?
Let’s start with the obvious. Characters need names, just as real people do. When a baby is born, there is no way for the happy parents to really know what personality the child will develop as they grow. Even genetics won’t give the full picture. So they decide on a name for the baby, and that’s it. There are untold numbers of children who grow up that names that are so obviously just not them.
What’s the difference in naming a baby and a character? A lot! For one thing, when you name a character, you already know or have an idea what this character’s personality is or will be. And unlike real life, you can change the name of your character if you lead your character into a new personality.
Deciding on a name can be tricky. The idea is to try and match the name with the type person you are attempting to portray. If you want to show that your female character is shy, reserved, feminine, look for “soft” names, such as Heather, Jennifer, Laura, Stephanie. If your female character is more of a go-getter, and outgoing, names like Ashley, Julia, and Kate might fit your character better.
Let’s say your main male character is a rock climbing man, rough and tough, makes Rambo look like a Barbie Doll. Would you name this character Harold or Walter? Probably not. Names like Hunter, Dirk, and Eric tend to bring to mind tougher type characters. If he’s a nice soft spoken accountant, Harold and Walter might be the perfect fit for a name. Then we have the sometimes exhausting process of just trying to think of another name, or something different.
There are books available that can help you decide the personality traits of your characters, therefore enabling you to better name them. One is Building Believable Characters. It has a section of given names and surnames in it, among other useful information.