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Now, that the British royal baby girl was born, many followers are excited about the little girl’s name. Is it going to be Charlotte, Alice, Elisabeth or Diana? This excitement made me think about choosing names. How does one pick a name for a character in a fictional work? Does it work the same way as picking a name for a newborn?

I believe that there are similarities. The writer’s digest suggest taking seven factors into consideration: 1) Check the root meanings; 2) Get your era right; 3) Speak them out loud; 4) Manage your crew properly; 5) Use alliterative initials; 6) Think it through; and, 7) Check them again. These rules are certainly applicable to both parents and writers. You do not want your child or character to end up with a name with a funny root meaning; feel like he or she does not belong to the era; made fun of because of the way the name sounds; have similar names to people around; and, live with a name picked on impulse. Both parents and writers should take these sensible rules under advisement.  

Beyond these sensible rules, is there anything else that a person can do to pick the right name? For my first book, I had people volunteer their names or volunteer names they were familiar with. One of my main characters, Spyder, is a name a biker uses. Tyler is my ex-coworker. I added the designation “Skinny” in front of “Tyler” to make him look like a younger, outlaw biker. Destiny is also a coworker who did not mind lending her name to the leading lady character in the story. Thus, I can say I used up most of the names of the people around me who fit well into my story, having taken the seven rules mentioned into consideration. This means that I had to be more imaginative for my second book. For my short stories, I tried to focus on names with specific meanings. I actually went on the internet to search for the mysterious character names I desired. Since most of my stories have mystery attached to them, the characters’ names had to be ambiguous. It was tougher than I thought it would be. Atlas, Alethea, MarytheRed and Dilronzo are all ambiguous enough to pass. Yet, they carry the meaning of what I wanted to say and fit into the stories, as well. Thus, I managed to come up with great names at the end.

Is there anything else a person can do to pick the right name, then? I think that the most important point is that the name really has to bring out the character of the person. It has to click with the character. In case of writers, for example, unless one wants to be ironic, calling a lovable man Poseidon would be unkind, since he is one of the most violent and mean-spirited god in Greek mythology. The same way, calling an evil woman Theresa might raise a few eyebrows because the name is mostly associated with saints or saintly women, such as Saint Theresa of Avila or Mother Theresa. The name has to fit the character well. I do not mean to say that the character has to fit the stereotypical image, but it cannot be out of synchrony with the image the audience can relate to. Simply, a person has to carry the right idea for which the writer is trying to use the character for. The name has to be uniquely fitting for the purpose it serves. It cannot be unique for the sake of being unique alone. Similarly, a parent might think about how the name fits the child in question. The name has to carry the right idea about the child that his or her personality expresses. The child’s name cannot be unique for the sake of just being unique. After all, the child has to live with it for the rest of his or her life.

Although picking a name is tricky, both parents and writers can do a good job, if they focus on the person they are naming. So, when the person speaks, it carries the right image: “Hello, my name is Destiny! What is yours?”

M. J. Mandoki

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