Naming your Characters

Naming characters is a small but crucial detail for a novel. It’s not as easy as it seems. Names should be distinct from other characters and appropriate for the story and the characters.

An Example Dissected

I went through many name changes for my characters in The Spare. Some names just came to me. Sebastian Alexander (the hero) is one of those names. (But check out this for a hero’s name that didn’t come easily.) In fact, most names don’t just come to me, or else I get tired of them or -well check this out:

The problem of Harry’s last name comes to a head. I like Royce, it sounds good and looks good on the page, too. Only Harry’s a viscount and no one uses his last name and that’s a waste of a good name.

Round One:

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Verney
Hero’s Best Friend Harry Royce
Antagonist John Willow
Butler Hasstard

Round Two

I decided I didn’t like Verney anymore for my heroine’s last name. John Willow was originally a much older cousin. But I thought that wasn’t going to work so I made that character unrelated - for a while -- he was a nice young man....

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Willow
Hero’s Best Friend Harry Royce
Antagonist Tommy Verney
Butler Hasstard

Round Three

Darn. Too many -y names, Harry, Tommy and Verney. I decided to restore the blood-relationship between Olivia and the antagonist - they needed the same last name,and I liked Willow better than Verney. Tommy needed to go because for some reason Tommy Willow sounds like a ten-year-old (but Tommy Verney did not. Don’t know why.) I tried Tom and Thomas, neither of which were really satisfactory.

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Willow
Hero’s Best Friend Harry Royce
Antagonist Tom Willow
Butler Hasstard

Round Four

Still dealing with the -y problem. I liked Harry for the best friend and so, Tom, Tommy, Thomas had to go. Besides, Verney was originally conceived as a nice guy, but he just refused to cooperate. He insisted on being bad and Tom just didn’t fit any more. I have another problem looming, which is Harry’s last name.

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Willow
Hero’s Best Friend Harry Royce
Antagonist Trefor Willow
Butler Hasstard

Round Five

Well, after a while, I decided Trefor was too cool a name for that bad boy antagonist. It just didn’t quite fit. So, I decided to name him Hew. Doubtless you can see the problem... The problem of Harry’s last name comes to a head. I like Royce, it sounds good and looks good on the page, too. Only Harry’s a viscount and no one uses his last name and that’s a waste of a good name. He has a half-sister, so I ended up giving her the last name.

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Willow
Hero’s Best Friend Harry DuPlessis
Antagonist Hew Willow
Butler Hasstard

Round Six

Three names starting with H. Harry, Hew and Hasstard. Oops. Hew was just perfect for my antagonist and I absolutely wasn’t going to change it. So, I got strict with myself.

Hero Sebastian Alexander
Heroine Olivia Willow
Hero’s Best Friend James DuPlessis
Antagonist Hew Willow
Butler Price

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