What’s in a name? Everything! Think of all the remarkable fiction where a name could make or break a kingdom (or in some cases, imprison their owner—Rumpelstiltskin, anyone?) Names carry weight whether they are passed down from generations, given to inspire their owner, or pulled out of the void on a whim. It’s why parents spend so much time considering their child’s moniker before handing them that characteristic that will follow them their entire lives.
What about naming characters? It matters, too! When naming characters, there are so many options. We take so much time developing our worlds down to the last detail. Why not spend as much time on a name? Your characters—and I will insert here that ALL character names matter, not just the main character—can inspire mood, tone, and even the general path your story takes.
For me, names don’t come easily. Well, that’s not entirely true. When writing young adult romance, they are usually set in America, and the characters end up with relatable names. Why? Because I want my target audience to see them as someone they might go to school with or someone they could know!
As for fantasy… well, that takes me a little longer. I usually want something lyrical that rolls of the tongue like a breath for romantic fantasy (think Nari from my book Evernigh… like a sigh, but with enough edge that says she’s no pushover either!) Other times, I want something harder that depicts the warrior character, like Eiagan. It’s different, has some harder syllables, and is fantastical enough to add to my world (which is also a bit harsh… okay, Goranin is impossible to live in, but you get the point.)
I went with Celtic and Gaelic-inspired names for my most recent series (to be released soon) since the series surrounds Celtic and Gaelic folklore, gods and goddesses, and fairy tales! But I didn’t just choose a themed name. Her name—Roisin Dubh—has a purpose. Roughly translated, it is “little rose” and “black-haired” and pronounced (again, roughly) as Row-Sheen Dove. Doves play a significant part in the series (even though she is anything but a dove), and black roses will eventually become a vital thread. Her name is almost literally her destiny—a little black-haired rose filled with beauty and thorns, ready for battle but with a heart so kind she feels everything deeper than most. I can’t wait to bring this series to you all, but I digress.
Naming characters can be nerve-wracking—I get it! And sometimes, I cheat a bit. There is a website I adore called Fantasy Name Generator. This site is a wealth of information, and I often use it for inspiration or suggestions when naming anything from characters to places. I always recommend it when fellow writers get stuck naming their characters.
In short, one of the most important things people will remember about your book is the character names. Look no father than Instagram or Tik Tok to find memes and reels all about the fandom’s favorite characters. One only needs to say the name Bella to instantly remember Twilight, or Rhys to transport to the Night Court, or Harry to conjure up a wizarding experience.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic to hear your character’s name floating all over the literary world? Something that brings about such a strong reaction and imagery? I know I would!