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Submitted on
May 3, 2013
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    Your character's name is one of the most important decisions you have to make when writing a story. There are tons of resources for naming your characters (baby name websites being my personal favorite) but there are also many things you should take into consideration. Here are some do's and don'ts in no particular order. 

Similar names for twins  
    I read an article on names recently that expressly forbid the use of matching or similar twin names because it was "overdone". While yes, naming your twins Jayden and Kayden can be a bit tacky sounding, the truth is that people do it. A lot. I've personally met a pair of identical twins named Kirsten and Kristen. Do I think their parents are crazy? A little, but when you're choosing names for your twins, it's hard not to look for rhyming or alliteration. For writers, my only suggestion is to make them visually different enough that readers can tell them apart. Jace and Jackson are easy twin names to read, but not so much for Daniel and Danielle.

Damian, Darian, Darius, Damon, etc. 
    I cannot even begin to explain how many teen novels I've read where the handsome hunk is named Damian or some variation thereof. If you look this name up in the dictionary, I'm willing to bet the definition will be "tall, dark, and handsome." Moral of this story? It's been done... to death.

Letter Trends  
    Storytime! When I was young, I was obsessed with the letter K. I thought it sounded so cool! So cool, in fact, that my entire group of friends had nicknames that started with the letter: Kit, Kaya, Kayo, Kiako, Kiki, Ky, Kili, Kenny, etc. There was a whole pack of us. Moving on to my story writing, I named all of my characters with a K name. (Hint: for those who know of my story, Kitaru and Kyouya are the remaining K's, but Maya used to be Kaiko and Leina used to be Kayano). I'm sure after reading this small paragraph, you're already sick of the letter! Keep in mind that your readers might feel the same way if you litter your story with very similar names or names that all start with the same letter. Kay? ;D

Names meanings 
    This one is important! In most of the "how to name your character" guides I've read, it always suggests using a meaning that describes your character's personality or something about them. I could not disagree more! Please try to remember that names generally come from our parents. When you are a gross wrinkly squirmy pink baby, they're not going to know if you're going to grow up to be a "valiant warrior" or a "beautiful dancer". Whatever they name you, you will grow into it. Instead of using your character's name like a label, just give them a name and let them define it. Worry about making your character memorable enough that the meaning doesn't matter. (Ex. The name Hermione means "travel". Okay, whatever. You know darn well who she is though!)

Stormy Night and Jynx Nightshade 
    Just let those names sink in for a minute. Okay. Fairly simple concept, but don't define your character's ever present bad mood with an equally sulky name. Remember, they were born with that name! Stormy Night very well could have turned into a bubbly blonde cheerleader- now wouldn't that be awkward! An exception would be if your character nicknamed their self  something like this (I know that having a "goth name" was popular for a while) but don't forget to mention it's a nickname!

Alyxzander, Keighleigh, Alyzzabeth, Maddisynne, Lyndseigh 
    Please, just don't. If writers put less time into making the spelling of their character's name unique and more time into making their character memorable, the quality of writing would skyrocket. I think it's safe to say that this is a good tip for actually naming your children too- who wants to put up with a lifetime of "That's Ashley, spelled A-s-h-l-l-y-e-i-g-h"? Also keep in mind that if a reader can't pronounce the name, they'll probably just wing it. I read a story with a character named Schuyler and spent the whole series calling her "shoe-lee-ur". Who knew that it's pronounced "Skyler"?

Animal names 
    I see a lot of catgirls named Neko or Koneko (Cat or Kitten in Japanese) and a LOT of fox characters named "Kitsune" (Fox) or Bunny loving characters named "Usagi" (Bunny). While these names are cute, try to remember that giving your character one of these names is adding them to a very long list of characters with the same qualities and names. If you're going to use a Japanese name, I'd suggest researching actual Japanese names and not just Japanese words that describe your character...

Misato vs. Jon  
    Always keep in mind where your character (and sometimes their parents) are from. Names in the USA vary greatly due to things like adoption from other countries and parents wanting American names for their children (like my adopted Chinese cousin, Megan). However if you have a Mexican named Bob and a British lad named Javier, you might be doing something wrong. Figure out where your story takes place and try to read a list of popular names from that country just to get a feel for what kind of names might fit. 

Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV  
    While this is a toned down example, your character really doesn't need fifteen middle names. If your character is somebody epic and amazing like Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, perhaps the extra names are necessary. However if your character is just a simple high school girl or a peasant from long ago, their name will probably be as simple as they are.

Name Trends in Different Times
    These are just a few tips that I picked up from all of my reading. When people started moving to America a long time ago, many of them didn't have last names or family names. Because of this, they often chose one related to their profession. Smith for blacksmiths, Carter for people who transported things in carts- you see where I'm going with this. Also, many last names come from parents, such as Thompson (Thom's Son) or Jackson (Jackson). This does not seem to be as common in daughters, as the closest I could find was the last name of a famous singer, Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Her name is Icelandic and her last name means daughter of Guðmundur. Furthermore, some people were given last names as they earned them, as seen in the story Eragon when his name evolves from Eragon Bromson to Eragon Shadeslayer after he killed a Shade. All of these scenerios are far more likely if you're writing a fantasy story that takes place in a different or old world. You won't find many Alice SwordSwingers in a modern day classroom. (but you might find an Alice Thompson!)

Bonus- How I name my characters  
    I have a few different methods for naming characters. I usually try one and move on to the next if it doesn't work.
  1. The easy one- sometimes a name will just pop into my head. This is handy but sometimes it leads to strange names. (Ex. Clover from Demonika) The best part about this, though, is if you think about a name for a character, usually the first thing that pops into your head sticks and even if you spend the next day searching for a name, you'll always come back to that one. That's when you know it's stuck.
  2. I have a file in my computer called "Namebase". Whenever I hear a name I like while I'm out and about or browsing the internet, I'll just jot it down in there. It's nice to have a handy list of names that I already know I like to look through when I'm stuck on a nameless character.
  3. Babyname websites. My suggestions for these are a) Pick a letter before you even start or you'll notice that all of your characters' names start with A, B or C. Since these lists are most often alphabetized, those are the first ones that will catch your interest. b) After you choose a letter, start on page two or three of that letter. Everyone's going to pick a name on the first few pages because those are the first ones they see. Go see what the later pages have to offer! Bonus tip: while you're browsing, if you see a name that you like but it doesn't really fit your character, don't forget to add it to your namebase!
As always, let me know if there is anything I missed! I'd be happy to go back and add something to improve the lesson. Also, please keep in mind that these are merely my thoughts and I am not a professional. I can't tell you what to do!

Bonus! Tell me where your character's name came from in the comments! If their parents chose it, why did they pick that name?
Fun fact: My character Kitaru was named after an orphaned boy that her mother had cared for previous to her conception. Her mother lost the boy to a sickness that swept the village, but promised to keep his memory alive by giving his name to her first child.

Edit: This was my very first deviation to ever hit the front page. Thank you guys so much for all of the amazing feedback!
Edit Edit: OH MY GOD MY FIRST DD EVER. *flails and cries* I freaking love you guys T^T Thank you so much ^GrimFace242, ^Elandria, and everyone who has read this!

NEW! This has been translated into German by the wonderful deviant ~Flammenfeder! German translation here! (Deutsch ‹bersetzung hier!)

If you found this helpful, Check out my other writers guides and lessons here! I will be doing more in the future, so feel free to watch me too! <3

Please help support me as a writer! If you enjoy my writers guides, all I ask is that you take a moment to read some of my own work. I'd love to hear what you think!

Demonika Ch. 1                I suppose I should have known from the start that the girl I found sitting in a dark, damp alley that night so long ago was a demon. Perhaps I was too young to put two and two together, or maybe I was too angry at my parents to care. I had only been ten for a few days, if I recall correctly, and I had just gotten into an awful fight with my father. I had looked to my mother for help but, to my dismay, she took my father’s side. They were both strictly against me going into magic.
                Ten was an important age for me; it was an important age for any youngster who desired a future in the magic arts. There was a yearly event attended by every magic loving ten-year-old around. Skilled mages arrived at the event in dramatic manners, appearing out of thin air or emerging from colums of fire, to speak with the children and find an apprentice. I had yearned to be one of th
Bad Luck Ch. 1       Half of the day had passed and Zane still lounged in his bed, staring at the ceiling between long, slow blinks. He was in a terrible mood. The source of his foul mood was the cell phone that blinked innocently beside him or, perhaps more accurately, the voicemail it had recited some hours ago. Another singer and their frail excuses for quitting the band. It was enough to drive anybody mad, really.
       For most problems, Zane simply turned to his guitar for consolation, but this problem couldn’t be solved by music. So instead he continued to lay in his bed and contemplate the unfairness of it.
       Zane had been playing guitar since he was old enough to strum. His lessons had started at age five and ended at ten, when his parents decided they’d had enough of his obsession with music and his time would be better spent on studies. Through the help of his ever supportive godfather, Zane still managed to lea
Arlyn of the Ocean                My childhood summers were filled with the salty air and sea shells of the Gulf, my favorite place to relax and play. I vividly remember the cold ocean water splashing at my ankles and the taste of the popsicles we ate between bouts of play. I collected hundreds of sea shells and made magnificent sand castles, dug holes as deep as I was tall and even caught a few fish. What I remember most of all, though, was Arlyn.
                The first summer I spent with my aunt was an entirely new experience; I had never seen the beach or played in salt water before. She coaxed me gently toward the water, armed with an array of floaties and toys. I followed her cautiously, reassured by her claims that I wasn’t meaty enough to interest any of the ocean’s monsters. I figured she had to be right; I weighed next to nothing as a scrawny, awkward ten-yea
Tyler's Fight       As fast as he was running, he should have expected to trip. When he did it startled him, and he tried to protect his face as he went down on the rough gravel. He hit the ground hard, but managed to roll and dissipate some of the force. It didn’t take long for his pursuers to catch up.
       “We told you running was pointless, slut.” Josh, the group’s leader, kicked Tyler hard in the shin as he struggled to get up. Tyler didn’t see Raine with the group, for which he was glad. He gritted his teeth and stood.
       “Why won’t you just leave me alone? I want nothing to do with you or Raine,” he begged, his heart pounding. He stepped back and winced at the pain in his leg. He really wasn’t made for physical confrontation. 
       “You never should have touched her in the first place.” Josh spat on Tyler’s shoes and turned his b
FamilyMommy chases pills
with whiskey, beer, and wine.

Daddy finds his happiness
in a snow white cocaine line.

Sissy slams the door
and goes to find another life.

That leaves me alone,
canvas skin and red pen knife.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-05-14
[Stock & Resources] The suggester states "*Kitsunechann hits every popular flaw in character naming, explains why you shouldn't do it, and gives some awesome examples of how to fix your errors. Wonderful guide for any beginner (or seasoned vet)." Writing Lesson: Naming Your Character by *Kitsunechann ( Suggested by GrimFace242 and Featured by Elandria )
L-K-Hollander Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2014
I write urban fantasy; most action takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area.  For Humans, I consult the US SSA(social security agency) Site which offers popular male/female names by decade.  One or two of the vampires are children of Hippies or Valley People and require dated/passe names.  Some of the human children are the offspring of yuppies, and require 'upper class faddy' named.  Most of the Alves are Nordic/Celtic and for them I go to Nordic Names.  Other races are passing as human and they use human names according to their apparent age and class.  Other races cannot pass as human, and I tend to adjust strange/unusual human names for them. 
Fehnwrites Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That sounds like a really cool system :D
ShinyDrago Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
very thorough and neat explanation! i found it very useful! thanks!
Fehnwrites Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Glad I could help ^^
frozenskiing Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is really useful! I wish I'd found it a few months ago, when I was at the character-creation stage. Naming is a nightmare :faint: Also, strange coincidence, I actually have someone called Darius in my original story. He's not the handsome hunk, though… I think it's safe to say he breaks the stereotype ;P (he's actually the bad guy)
Fehnwrites Featured By Owner 6 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Lol I'm glad it could help! 
Lisavdb Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2014  Student Digital Artist
My character for my upcoming story is called Charlait Depaul. She was born in France, 1926, and you can bet I researched this too damn much. Charlait was just cool (meaning tiny and womanly - although she'll give the name a new meaning), and Depaul because her fathers name is Paul (his last name is Derichard).

Do you guys like her name? ^-^
gaby89229 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
First, best naming lesson EVER!

Errm, what's you're take on using names that are just too common?
Fehnwrites Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
If you can take a common name and make a really interesting and memorable character out of them, then all the power to you :3 Think of Ron. (Weasley, that is.)
gaby89229 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, thanks :D
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