I have trouble visualizing a character until I find their name. They need their name, just a name I make up for the sake of writing until I find it. I can spend hours searching through name databases online, looking for perfect names.

What’s in a name? Everything. A name can be a signal to personality. It can allude to a stereotype that the character breaks, like a bubbly girl named Raven or Tabitha, or a goth girl named Daisy. ‘Richard’ is a very sturdy name. ‘Elizabeth’ is a proper, English name, but it’s overused.

What suggested personality comes with the name November? Arvil? Sweeney? Britney? Unlike real people, we know our characters before we name them. We know their personalities and backgrounds. Names can create a breathing person, or they can fail.

One name I remember from a workshop is ‘Wynter.’ The way it’s spelled, the emo-chick character, it all felt like too forced into a stereotype. Of course, I’m on the side of the fence that dislikes when people change the spelling of a simple name to be ‘different.’ Have you ever looked up all the ways people spell ‘Crystal?’ No? There’s a lot. Some of them aren’t even phonetically sound.

If a name doesn’t sound right to you, don’t settle. Keep searching for that name. I have a list on my phone of names I find. I write them down as I hear/read them. Cool names of real people; unusual names, different names that aren’t so different that it looks like I mashed my keyboard. I hate made-up fantasy names. They look ridiculous and aren’t pronounceable.

Say your character’s name out loud. Talk to them as if they were real. Does the name fit?

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