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How character names tell a story

What’s your strategy for naming characters? The right names can add depth to your characters and advance your story.

In See You at Harry’s, a book about a family who survives a tragedy, author Jo Knowles named her 12-year-old protagonist “Fern.”

In one scene, Fern and her mother discuss how Fern’s name was inspired by the book Charlotte’s Web.

“Do you know why I named you Fern?”

I nodded looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?”

“And why is that?”

I shrugged.

“Because Fern cares,” she said. “From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul.  I knew you’d be a good friend. A hero.”

I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart.

“It’s true,” my mom said. “Not everyone would share a sandwich with Random Smith.”

I smiled, feeling my soul stir a little.

Fern isn’t the only character who is named after a character in a book. Fern’s brother Holden is named after Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. When Fern and Holden found out their mom was pregnant, they were allowed to weigh in on names, and they chose the name “Charlie” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Names can inspire personality traits in characters. The names can become part of the story, and the characters can sometimes live up — or not — to their names.

How do you choose your character names?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am currently creating a spreadsheet of names i like and their meanings so that i can hopefully always find a name that fits 🙂

    April 17, 2013
    • That’s a great idea. I’m always on the lookout for good names. You never know where you’ll find them.

      April 17, 2013

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