Names are important and it’s important to get the right one but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours researching names to find one with a meaning that somehow relates to your character. Arguably, it’s very clever but it’s also very unlikely that your reader will look up the meaning of your character’s name and therefore your effort will be for nothing. Having said that the name needs to sound right.

For example think of action heroes; Jack Reacher, James Bond, John Wayne (I included John Wayne as his name was changed to make it more masculine). Aside from the fact that there’s three J’s their names are short, to the point and easily screamed by a damsel in distress. You don’t want to give whoever they’re rescuing too much to scream as they’re being lowered into a lava vat or chased by outlaws. As much as I like names like Archibald (yep, I really do) it’s not something that can be screamed as your rescuee is descending to their doom. Archie, possibly, but given the propensity of people to name their dogs Archie the villain might expect Lassie to turn up.

Now, I’m not entirely convinced you couldn’t have an action hero with a name that isn’t particularly masculine, an example being if your hero is actually a heroine, but I think it still has to feel right for the character. This name could be one that doesn’t fit the general trend but you still need to make you reader think, ‘yes, that’s the character’s name’. I’m not entirely sure that the Jack Reacher series would’ve been as successful if Jack Reacher was named Archibald Witherington, not because the name lacks that macho impact but because Jack Reacher feels like the only name Jack Reacher could’ve had. A hero named Archibald Witherington is probably the type of man who, however macho he was, would constantly be the butt of jokes because of his name. I’m not sure that Jack Reacher even has a sense of humour, but it’s been a while since I read one of the books.

The point is that I’m not going to tell you that you have to abide by this rule or that rule, simply that you know or you’ll workout who your character is and their name needs to feel like their name. Even if it’s Archibald Witherington who’s constantly the butt of jokes.

For more writing advice see my archive page.

Tweet me @SisterQuill


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