I began writing a new short story this week and it’s going fairly well. The storyboard looks solid, the premise is plausible, the twists (there are two) are just tricky enough to catch readers off-guard. The stage has been set, and all of the supporting characters know their jobs. There’s just one snag: my main character doesn’t have a name.

It’s not as if I’ve been avoiding her or calling her “Hey you”. She appears in the manuscript as “MC” (Main Character) and every time I see those initials, “Can’t Touch This” pops into my head. No, not really a big MC Hammer fan. Hated the pants. We are now far enough along in the project that she needs a name. She pointed that out to me during a writing session earlier this morning.

“I deserve a name,” she said. “A good one. What have you come up with?”

Knowing this time would come, I had drawn up a short list of possibilities but couldn’t make up my mind which one to use. “Just tell me what they are and I’ll pick one,” she offered.

I grabbed the Astro Pink index card and began firing them off. “Dara.”

“No.”

“Rachel.”

“Nope.”

“Jolie.”

“Pass.”

“Careta.”

“Eeuuww.”

I glared at her from across the desk. “That was my grandma’s name.”

“Sorry. What else you got?”

“Vikki.”

“Now that one I….yeah, no.”

“Astrid.”

“Really?”

“Just seeing if you were paying attention. How about Erika?”

The sudden silence was surprising and I looked up to see if she was still there. Lips pursed, head cocked, she considered. Then she smiled. “No likey.”

“Gah! That’s the last one. I got nothing.” The index card sailed onto the desk.

“I have one picked out. Want to hear it?” She said.

I closed my eyes and shook my head. “Sure.”

“Natalie.”

My eyes popped open. Natalie. Huh. I opened the manuscript and replaced every “MC” on the first page with “Natalie”, then read it back quickly. The flow was there. Problem solved.

“Natalie it is.” I sighed with relief, tinged with frustration. “If you had a name already, why didn’t you just tell me?”

“’Stubborn and difficult’. Page one, paragraph four. Remember?”

“Right.”

Need help matching monikers with your characters? Author Elizabeth Sims offered some helpful tips in her article “Namedropping” in the January 2012 issue of Writers Digest. While I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already, here’s the short and sweet when it comes to naming:

  • Check the root meaning.
  • Get your era right.
  • Say them out loud.
  • If you have a big cast of characters, vary the initials and number of syllables for their names.
  • Use alliterative initials.

Memorable names can pop up anywhere. I found a great one this week in a local obituary. The man’s name? Just Andersen. Consider the possibilities. What tricks or tips do you use to name your peeps?

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Comments
  1. These darn willful characters. Naming is one of the hardest things for me. If they don’t tell me their name loudly and right away, I throw something in and see if it grows on me.

  2. Nisha says:

    Ahh, I wish my characters were that helpful, ha ha!
    I dont really have a method, I just think of the character, how they look in my head and ask myself, what do they look like? For example, “This chick looks like a Rosie..”
    For more ethnic names, I do tend to look at meaning.

    On occassion I will be stumped for a winning name and I’m glad I’m not the only writer who leaves names out till the very end… 😉

  3. I’m glad you found my article in WD useful. Thinking of character names is like striking flint to steel, watching for the spark.

    • Thanks for stopping by to comment. Lots of good information in your article, as there usually is in the pieces you write for WD. And I’ve added several of your books to my reading list!

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