Character Names – Worth A Research?


Lately, I met an Irish woman whose first name I simply love: Mairead. She told me it’s the Irish version of the name Margaret. I was fascinated. Margaret is a great name, but to my ear, Mairead sounds mysterious and a bit magic.

After a little bit of research, I found out that it’s believed the meaning of the name is ‘pearl.’ I’m convinced in one of my books a character called Mariead will show up.

That coincidence is one of the very few occasions so far that I met a person whose name I plan to use in one of my books.

Most of the time I have a ‘rough plan’ about a particular new character in my head already. Before the ‘fine tuning’ I most of the time need a name. In my head, I can only imagine a character as a person if he or she has a name.

XY is often in a fit of violent temper.
XY is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
XY occasionally twirls his beard when…

and so on. These things don’t work for me if I cannot address the person properly.

Erik is often in a fit of violent temper.
Wilbur Carstairs is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
Grandpa Ben occasionally twirls his beard when…

That’s much better. My head has a picture of Erik, Wilbur and Grandpa Ben now.

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Imagine now I created a beautiful Irish woman with light skin, black hair and bright blue eyes. She’s filigree, but no matter how tender she looks, her magic makes her strong. Nobody knows what powers slumber inside of her.

Before going deeper into her character, find out her flaws, build her in detail, I want to be able to think about her as a person, not merely a ‘picture’ or a ‘draft.’ I have a good basic idea of how she will be. What I need now is her name. A name that in my opinion, matches her looks as well as her character (and what I have hidden inside of her).

My research will look like this. First names on the left, last names on the right. I researched the names and the meanings.

After taking notes of the basics, I’ll leave the paper for a while and later on I’m trying to figure out what I like about the names, how they match. I keep scribbling onto the note until it looks like this. (And of course my favorite is red).

And here we go: Welcome to my book, Aideen Brady.

Do you think this is too complicated? What is your process to find your character’s names? Are names really worth such efforts? Let me hear your thoughts, please.

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