What’s in a name?

For the past week or so, I’ve been working on a short story for one of my writing classes. This story is part of a fantasy series that I want to write in the future. It is, however, the back story of my main male protagonist. I knew, in general, what happened to my character and I had no problem starting the story.

However, I made a mistake. I knew his name but I didn’t know anybody else’s and that was a problem. I stopped writing and was completely stumped. Like most writers, I went online and used name generators, specifically for fantasy, and spent almost half an hour generating names. Some didn’t feel right and they didn’t sound right. The names and the characters didn’t click. There was no chemistry between the two.

If we take an example from the real world, so to speak,  we use names for almost everything. We name our toys, our teddy bears, family members. Names are important and we wouldn’t pick a bad name for the people and things that we value and love. Characters are no different. As writers (even if you’re not a writer), we spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect name.

Personally, I think of my characters as my children and that’s why I couldn’t name my secondary characters by any name. They hold value to me and the story. Maybe it’s because I’ve been editing lately and haven’t been “creating” anything but this made me realize that, just because secondary characters aren’t the main attraction, they need love as well. They need as much attention as your main characters.

A lesson I learned in my my writing life is  to not create characters that you’re not going to use. Not only do they seem flat and waste space in your story, it makes for ‘bad’ writing. As writers, we want to stay away from elements that affect our writing negatively. With that mind, don’t rush naming your characters. Sometimes they name themselves.

Has there ever been a time when you’ve antagonize over your characters’ names? What’s your process? Does it get any easier?

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