How Do Authors Choose Character Names | C.G. Buswell
Tartan Noir Writer

How Do Authors Choose Character Names

Character names are surprisingly one of the most difficult parts of writing a novel or short story, be that their Christian or surname. I can picture the characters in my head or even write dialogue or descriptive scenes. But when it comes to choosing their names, I'm left scratching my head.

How Do Authors Choose Character Names
I have resorted to baby names books and websites along with free random name generator tools on sites - yes, who knew! Isn't the internet a great research tool for us writers. But such randomness doesn't produce a name that really suits the traits of the character, a person only the author knows truly well. After all he or she has lived with them for months, and in some cases, years. Scott in my Grey and Scarlet series truly suits his name I feel. It's quite a heroic name and a common one, up here in rural Aberdeenshire. His lover, Naomi, is one of my favourite names, I just love the rhythm of the sound, and is named after an actress who I could imagine playing her should any TV or film producers be reading this!

Reading aloud names of characters is a useful way upon deciding whether to use them or not. Write a scene with them in and read this out too. Does it suit them, does the dialogue flow, or does the names prove difficult to say? Will a reader be put off by difficult to read names? I hope one day to see my works on television or the cinema (I dream big) so I imagine actors reading chunks of my work. Try imagining someone turning your book into a talking book, will the Christian and surnames be easily pronounceable?

The antagonist in my works are always named after loathsome people I have met in real-life, a cathartic way to work out some issues without paying for an expensive therapist. So, Andrew, if you are reading, then you really ought to read Burnt Vengeance, though other Andrews' are available, should your solicitor be reading!

Joking aside, what if you name a character after someone who knows you? Should every Andrew get upset with me because an odious character has been named after him? Of course he shouldn't, my works are fictional, the characters only exist on paper and in the reading thoughts of my dear readers. But folks do get upset and do try to think between the lines as the personalities in my novels and short stories blossom as the narration develops. Andrew in the pub will think that I think he is an adulterer and goodness knows what it will do to his marriage when his wife reads the story.

I have a range of notebooks in my study. One is simply labelled characters and is an A-Z with their names, which story or novel they appear in, and a list of useful information about them. That way I can refer back to them when needed, which was useful for Paul who appeared briefly in Angelic Gift and has a larger part in my forthcoming Halloween tale.

I'd love to know your thoughts on how other authors choose their character names, so feel free to contact me.

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