How I Choose Character Names In My Books

This article reveals something I’ve never told anyone that many will probably find funny.

It’s been statistically demonstrated that a person’s name has a lot of influence on what they do with their life, from the way it sounds, to what the public generally associates with that name, to what the name itself is. I won’t go excessively in-depth, but basically my point is, a man with the last name ‘Flowers’ is not very likely to be a crossfit trainer.

I have kept that in mind since the writing of my debut novel Remnant. Names have meaning, both to readers and to the characters they are reading about. Nobody wants a character with the last name ‘Flowers’ if that character is an evil villain bent on world destruction. (Unless he’s trying to destroy the world because he hates his name.) Plain truth is: a character’s name ought to immediately tell you something about them.

A long time ago, someone asked George R.R. Martin (author of the books Game of Thrones is based on) how he comes up with names for his characters. The first thing he said was, “Names are hard.” He concluded his answer by saying it ultimately comes down to what sounds right. I agree. That’s how I’ve done it since the beginning, so now that I know a famous author does it this way, I feel like I’m doing something right.

I research name meanings first and foremost. After all, names are hardly any different from common words. As soon as you learn a character’s name, you can count on the meaning of that name to be the reason they have it. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes it’s because the name is similar to something else with that name. I’ll give one shining example: For the character of Ethan (in Remnantetc.), his last name is Krohn, and I got that name from my favorite movie from childhood, DinosaurIn that movie, the main villain’s name is Kron (Ethan is semi-portrayed as a villain in Remnant). Additionally, there’s a child author I first heard of years ago named Jonathan Krohn who grew up conservative and eventually became liberal, just like me. Two great reasons to give the character based on myself that specific last name, so I just couldn’t resist.

So, if you’re a writer, and you have characters to name, remember that it’s not important what the name means. The name first and foremost has to have meaning to you.

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