How do you choose a name? In depth research? Random Selection? or Pick What Sounds Right?
Naming a character is a very difficult thing. It is akin to naming a child, except a child will amend his name as he grows up. But your character is either blessed or cursed by your christening forever. I have noticed in many novels the hero has a common, even plain name while the secondary characters’ names have more flair. This method has some logic. Secondary characters need a device to be memorable and in contrast continually repeating a complicated or exotic name for the hero becomes tedious. I am aware of this method, yet don’t always follow it. However, I think a short, easy to say name is always a good choice for a main character.
I choose my character names almost completely by phonetics. In truth, I picked the letter ‘b’ for this blog because I like its resonance. I try to give my characters a name that sounds good. It is hard to describe but the name should ‘feel’ right. Saying the name out loud helps. I find I tend to shorten names (a family habit) often to only a syllable or two.
Beo was my first named character. I fruitlessly researched names online. I pillaged my thesaurus. I agonized over the selecting the perfect name for my brave heroine. ‘Beo’ was inspired by the tale of ‘Beowulf’. I was drawn to the strength of the word and its primal quality. Beo is an ancient immortal. She couldn’t be named something like ‘Tiffany’ or ‘Suzanne’. She is of a different time and place. ‘Beo’ resonated with me. It was as strong and layered as my character.
I do research names. Not in a baby name book or traditional name meaning websites. I think of characteristics I admire or are important to the core of a character (For example, ‘loyal’ ‘love’ ‘pain’). Then I research those words in various research books. I try to tie the characters’ name to the time and place of their origin. Going through the Latin roots of words is also insightful in picking or devising the right sounding name.
After Beo was given her name, she was even more real. I could picture her and what she would do in a given situation. My thought processed changed from ‘what would my character do next in the story’ to a much simpler ‘what would Beo do’.
“This is why I am called ‘Beo’. I am. I exist.”
– Beo, Solstice Night