Picking Names for
Fictional Characters

As with the name of a person, the name of a character can influence our perception of his or her personality before the story unfolds. So a carefully chosen name can reinforce a character’s temperament and help an author tell a story.


As writers of popular fiction know, sometimes a carefully chosen fictional character name ends up influencing popular naming trends. Recently, the young characters Jacob and Bella from the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer are being credited with helping to propel  or at least maintain Jacob and Isabella to the top of the popularity lists.

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Be aware of a name’s connotations: If you name the shy secretary in your novel “Vixen” then expect to spend some time counteracting the perception that the name “Vixen” evokes. Unless, of course, for narrative purposes you want that association.


Avoid stereotypes:  Just as a good writer will avoiding creating characters that are stereotypes, he or she should also avoid stereotypical names.


Fit the time and place: You might keep Jayden and Mackenzie out of your Victorian Era screenplay unless there is a time machine involved.


Spell it the way it is pronounced / Pronounced it the way it is spelled:  Make it easy for readers to discuss/write about your story by enabling them to pronounce your characters’ names without stumbling.