How The Heck Do You Name Your MC?

So, you have a great story. A plot that’ll throw readers out of their seats. A main set of characters that are relatable and funny and unique. A twisted villain that straddles the line between true darkness and having a reason why they’re doing their evil deeds. You might even have a title for this masterpiece. But then you stop and realize: you don’t have a name for your main characters. What are you supposed to call them? What name would hold the mantle of the story? What should the minor characters shout as they claim victory?

Some authors have no issues finding the right name for their characters. Some authors spend days or months trying to find the right one. I belong in the “days or months” category. It takes me ages to figure out a name that I like, but because of that I’ve developed a set of tools that helps me. Maybe you could use those tools, too? Here are three ways I discover my character names like the ones in my Cicatrix Duology:

Try To Determine What They Represent In The Story
This is an old technique but I use it all the freaking time. Is your character brave? Strong? Shifty? Honorable? Scary, maybe? I used this for both my Across the Stars business owner Cassidy Gates and the big baddies Acedians (not a single character but are important enough they are a single big-bad entity). I knew Cassidy would be smart and independent and more clever than Mia, she’d be able to see through Mia’s ruse in a way no one else could, so I researched those traits and found her name. For the Acedians, I wanted to reflect their last stage, where the human part of them is taken away and they’re basically a shell for Donavin’s use. Adecia means “apathetic” and worked perfectly.

Pick Them Because Of An Inside Joke
Now don’t walk away from this or scoff. It’s a weird way of thinking, but my spaceship captain Mia Foley falls into this category. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to name her, and originally it had been Maria but then I kept on thinking of the song from Sound of Music and kept humming “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” in my head whenever her name came up. (Spoiler: In the two books, her name comes up a lot.) It wasn’t working out. So I thought about her story, about her past, her capture, her running, her always trying to stay one step ahead. And then it hit me, she literally tried to be M.I.A. (missing in action) after blowing up every ship. I realize it’s not the standard military way of using it (where it explains a missing person after a battle) but she tried to disappear. It made me chuckle and when I wrote her name in the story, it just worked.

Try One Of Those Name Generators
I really enjoy combing through the random name generators to find unique names for my characters – like Nin, who you’ll meet in Losing Hold. I never use the actual names that pop up but I like combining certain vowel sounds I see and figure out if it works, especially for last names or fantasy names.

Those are my tricks of the trade. What are some of yours? Leave a comment!

Hope you’re having a lovely Easter (if you celebrate) and a lovely Sunday (if you don’t)!
Warm regards,
Kellie

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2 thoughts on “How The Heck Do You Name Your MC?

  1. I’m a name addict. I collect them and keep a file called the Namepool so I always have a name close at hand when I create a new character. (More on that here: https://david-michael-williams.com/2012/05/15/choosing-the-perfect-name-for-your-baby-or-villain/)

    Here are a few ways I find names for main characters:

    – Baby name books (I love using the origin/meaning of a word as an Easter egg.)
    – U.S. Census data (e.g. most popular girl names in 1952)
    – Obituaries (especially for last names)
    – Names of people you know or knew (e.g. Marla in “Fight Club,” which was the name of a bully the author knew)

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