Book character names should be unique. They should be different from average, every day names, and they need to be distinct. In fact, there are a lot of guidelines I recommend that you follow when choosing your names.
My Big Mistake
When writing Swords of Destiny I felt each character and each name was perfect. However, only this morning did I realize a huge mistake I made during my editing.
I’ve been inadvertently using two characters with similar names. So similar that although they have distinct voices, characteristics, and interests, every time I used Character A’s name or Character B’s name, I had to double check.
Rule of thumb.
If the author has to double check the reader will most certainly have to double check. So, beyond just characters but if there’s anything you need to double check on, keep in mind the reader will do so ten times as often.
This goes beyond characters. It goes for flow, plot, character development, everything that’s encompassed into a full-length novel.
So, if you have two major characters, please don’t give them similar names. It’ll confuse your reader and they may end up putting your book down for another.
Choose unique names, and also names that fit your setting.
My book is fantasy based, so names like Lira and Taj are appropriate. But, if your book is based in, say Paris, French names would be more ideal.
In my Neo Skyehawk Series, the Tamurian Empire is identical to France, so I have used French names, or at least French surnames, as with my principal character, whose last name is LaSalle.
Wherever your book is set, research names that are unique to such a region and the authenticity of your work will shine.
Don’t set a book in the Roman Empire and give them Ottoman names, or don’t set a book in Italy and use English names. Predominately, of course.
A Word on Similar Names
As I stated, I used similar names for two major characters and ended up doubling back time and again.
Go out of your way to give your characters first names that are distinct enough to where you don’t confuse yourself or your reader.
Try not to give two major characters the same first initial, either, which is the mistake I also made. Not only were two names similar, but they also had the first initial.
You can see clearly why I had a tough time, myself.
It was something I caught before, but kept justifying it with each edit.
Yeah, don’t do that.
Change things if it’s going to benefit your reader, not to rush it to publish.
I’d rather wait and publish my work right before rushing to publish a sub-par quality product. And two similar character names will render your work to be a sub-par product.
I love how J.K. Rowling’s characters meant or symbolized something in her work. You can just do some research on each character’s name and there’s a reason behind them.
It’s kind of cool.
I did some of this with not only my character names but locations as well.
My principle character, Cain’s, last name is Riscattare, which means redeemer. Also, I love irony and Cain is also named after the biblical character Cain, who is one of the first antagonists in the Book of Genesis.
Despite Cain being the main protagonist in Northern Knights, he has an arrogant, shoot-first, ask questions later kind of personality, mirroring Cain with the biblical Cain.
General Syndari, the principle antagonist, takes a translated word of sinner, which I believe is of the Swedish language.
So, principle character Cain is the redeemer, antagonist General Syndari, is the sinner.
Also, I used names of the two rival Complexes, Santos and Leistung, as Saints versus Power.
And finally, with the Columbias as well. Columbia, for my non-American audience, was the original personification of the United States. You can also see this with Washington D.C. which stands for District of Columbia.
Columbia was also personified in Manifest Destiny, when the pioneers migrated West, much to the misfortune of my Lakota ancestors (I’m 1/16th Lakota).
But I went beyond this. My principle character’s best friend is named Lira, after the former Italian currency.
Micah is based on one of my cousins, who boasts a similar middle name. Jed is based on my own brother.
Savannah is based on a girl I met a few times in passing who was a tremendous athlete, who was also named after a certain city in America.
Doing this not only gives characters connections with the author, but the potential readers have a cool behind-the-scenes look on how you came up with names in favor just using name generators or random names.
You all know I love utilizing a tiny exercise after a lot of these posts, and this one here is no different. Get to work on brainstorming your ideas. What kind of unique names can you come up with?
Think long and hard about your names, make them distinct, don’t make them too similar, and make sure they mean something.
Oh, and don’t do what I did and try to justify using similar names that just won’t mesh. Trust me, it will annoy the reader.
Now it’s your turn.
Get to work and come up with the greatest names out there.