Sunday, September 26

This is how you stop character names giving you writer’s block

For some authors, character name choice can cause enormous writers block. Calling your characters can appear like the most pressing problem you have as an author.

What if I informed you it did not matter?

Truthfully, character names matter very little. Simply make a list and stop fretting about them.

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When I wrote the very first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, boring male to whom things occurred; I desired him to be a blunt instrument … when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I believed by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard.
Ian Fleming, The New Yorker, 21 April 1962

Character names are just the hooks that you hang the dispute of your story upon. The trick of good character identifying is to simply select something you can live with and make the story they are in interesting instead.

Take James Bond, for example. That name summons images of a dashing British spy doing brave things and being amazing. Ian Flemming picked the name to be as regular and uninteresting as possible.

If, when I am done writing, the name seems like it belongs, I just leave it. It is who the character is– what they do and say– that offers significance to the name.

If, when I am done writing, the name appears like it belongs, I simply leave it. If the name is not a terrific fit, then I can take a while to come up with something better. A quick search and replace later on leaves nobody the better that I altered it at the end.

This is the reality about names. It is who the character is– what they do and state– that offers meaning to the name. Not the other method around.

This is what I do. I make a list of names arbitrarily picked from some child name sites. One for each letter of the alphabet. Then, when I require a name, I just get one from the list (and cross it out so I do not recycle it).

This is how you stop character names from giving you writers block.

Character names matter in the last draft. While composing them, nevertheless, no one will understand if you utilize placeholders. Particularly for secondary characters.

This post was influenced by a concern on the Author Buzz UK online forums.

Character names matter in the last draft. I make a list of names arbitrarily picked from some baby name websites. When I need a name, I simply grab one from the list (and cross it out so I do not reuse it).

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