This is how you stop character names giving you writer’s block

For some writers, character name selection can cause massive writer’s block. Naming your characters can seem like the most pressing issue you have as a writer.

What if I told you it did not matter?

This is how you stop character names from giving you writer’s block.

Character names matter in the final draft. While writing them, however, no one will know if you use placeholders. Especially for secondary characters.

This is what I do. I make a list of names randomly selected from some baby name websites. One for each letter of the alphabet. Then, when I need a name, I just grab one from the list (and cross it out so I do not reuse it).

If, when I am done writing, the name seems like it belongs, I just leave it. If the name is not a great fit, then I can take some time to come up with something better. A quick search and replace later leaves no one the wiser that I changed it at the end.

This is the truth about names. It is who the character is – what they say and do – that gives meaning to the name. Not the other way around.

Take James Bond, for example. That name summons images of a dashing British spy doing heroic things and being awesome. Ian Flemming chose the name to be as ordinary and boring as possible.

When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument … when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard.

Ian Fleming, The New Yorker, 21 April 1962

Character names are just the hooks that you hang the conflict of your story upon. The secret of good character naming is to just pick something you can live with and make the story they are in exciting instead.

Honestly, character names matter very little. Just make a list and stop worrying about them.

This post was inspired by a question on the Author Buzz UK forums.

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