When I started my first book, the biggest challenge was trying to pick a name for my lead character, and then for the other characters as they got introduced. When choosing a name, you need to realise that each time the reader sees the name they will instantly identify who it is, so you will want to pick something that is memorable but not ridiculous.
Firstly, think of your genre and your period, if the book is set in ancient Greece you wouldn’t call a character Jürgen or Heimlich as that would be more out of place than a number in the alphabet. There are numerous websites out there that offer name generators, some more complex than others, but I prefer not to use them. There is something thrilling about choosing a name and the joy when I get the one that fits. What I would like to say to anyone is that you need to have at least a vague idea of what type of character you are giving it can help you to visualise what is right.
With some authors, you will find that the names they give to characters or even places represent someone from their past and only they know the reference. I have seen some authors run competitions where you can have your name in their book and they will choose which of the characters best suits your name.
I have found a technique that works for me and helps me with first names, last names and even place names. It is a little unusual but I find that reading random articles on Wikipedia can inspire me. The way that I do it is I just select ‘Random Article’ from the left hand menu and quickly skim through the page for any words that stand out to me that could be used. Quite often I come across articles that don’t give me anything as they do not fit the genre, but they could be used for other stuff so I will make a note and refer back to it when doing something else.
I know that my technique may not be conventional for most authors but I find it works and is completely non-biased. If you name a character after a real person they may be offended by the way they are portrayed. Your intentions may be good and you may want to write the character as far from the real person as possible, however they may not see it that way and it can cause more trouble than it is worth. If you believe that they are okay with being a named character no matter what, I would recommend you sit down with them and plan out the type of character they will be and keep them updated throughout the entire writing process. After all that you may think that you are okay to write whatever you want, however you should get them to sign a waiver to state that the character is them in ‘name only’ and any characteristics, traits or actions do not portray them in real life. You may also want to confirm in writing what (if any) monetary value they will be receiving for the use of their name and nothing more will be owed on top of this.
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