Thinking about characters and their names

Yesterday I shared some ideas from my little book on writing, ‘So You Want To Write‘. Today I’m thinking about characters; for me it is often the characters which drive my stories… and iI take great care in choosing their names!


The reader relies on the writer to give them information about the characters.
Names are important; think how old a person is as names often relate to age, an old lady is not likely to be called the name of a popular actor or singer but a small child might be.
Be consistent; don’t change the colour of someone’s eyes for example (unless they are using contact lenses for a specific reason!)
Character is not just appearance, it is the personality, characteristics, habits, behaviour. Characters may need jobs or occupations, friends, family, relatives, favourite places, food, TV programmes. Do not go for the lazy option and use stereotypes!
In a longer story characters may need a life! They may need to have birthdays, holidays, Christmas!
In a short story do not introduce too many characters. Be careful about names, do not have too many that are similar unless you do so for a very specific reason, Shane/Shawn/Shania, Carol/Carl/Carla, Chris/Chrissie/Christa.
Be clear in your own mind what your characters are like – it might be helpful to make notes to remind you, to keep your people consistent, to make them believable and rounded individuals.
Don’t get too fond of your characters!

…and their


A bit more on names because they are really important!
A few commandments:

  • take as much care with a name for your character as for your child, your pet, the boat you have just bought.
  • don’t necessarily use the first name which comes into your head.
  • with first names, think of the age of the character, and what background they are from – and research!
  • no stereotypical characters and no stereotypical names!
  • your characters will have more character (a little joke) if their surnames are unusual – not weird or wacky unless there is a reason, but a name your readers will remember
  • check your names aren’t unintentionally funny or silly or belong to a real person.
  • don’t let the names be a distraction or an irritation
  • and just to repeat, don’t have similar names for characters without a purpose to it

© Lois Elsden 2018

Here is a link to my little book with suggestions on how to get started and carry on with writing!



  1. David Lewis

    When I was a lad in grade school everyone had a nickname and the other kids always called you by your nickname or a shortened version of it. My last name is Lewis so I became Louie and later on for whatever reason Screwy Louie.Years ago at the YMCA I heard a distinctive laugh coming from a woman that sounded like the laugh I’d heard years ago in school. When I asked her name she yelled out Screwy!! how the hell are you? Fifty years later and I’m still Screwy. Kinda like that. Don’t know if I told that before but it’s still funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      We have a friend whose surname is Lewis, he’s Lewie too! I’ve never heard him called Screwy… Sometimes people who don’t know how my name is pronounced call me Louie – but there again, I also get Louise, Eloise, Lucy… and many more!


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