Character Names: Be Astute About Them! An Article by Mary Deal

Be Astute About Character Names


Mary Deal

When choosing monikers for your fictional people, plan deliberately.

You wouldn’t put characters in your story with similar names, like Mary Barnes and Marion Burns. Avoid using not only the same letters more than once if it can be helped, but also avoid names that sound the same or which rhyme. An exception may be names for twins.

What follows are the names of characters in my latest thriller, Down to the Needle. Notice, too, that I have included brief descriptions of each character’s personality, which, I’m told, offers clues to the story plot.

ABIGAIL FISHER, Protagonist, heroine – has a lifelong obsession to find her daughter

JOE ARNO, Secondary Protagonist, Abi’s love interest – steady and supportive

Preston Fisher, Abi’s long-missing husband – secretive

Edith Armstrong, owns “The Beacon,” meals for the homeless – charitable

Becky Ann Fisher, Abi’s abducted daughter – artist

Megan Winnaker, Inmate – determined, brave, while facing death

Vance Winnaker, Megan’s father – Aryan

Rae Overland, gang member

Quincy Overland, Rae’s father – Aryan

June, homeless woman – confused

Margaret Griffin (Lady Griff), homecoming queen, Joe’s former obsessive love interest – quite the vamp!

Bertrand Thorndyke, III, Margaret’s husband – stiff, formal

Velma, Police sketch artist

Lindsay, Abigail’s store clerk – supportive, with business savvy

DeWitt, homeless man who protects June – has a sense of right and wrong

Chad Britto, Police Lieutenant – determined to crack the case before retiring

Stan Yates, blind man – egocentric, self-righteous

Hazel Yates, Stan’s sister – limited mentality

Dr. Gilda Sayer, Prison Psychiatrist

Emery Kenton, Megan’s attorney – hidden obsession

Jack Pierce, Fireman Captain

Dara Hines, Aryan girl – wild

Sling, Dara’s boyfriend – pathetic, fearful

Tess Ulrich, witness to Megan’s crime

Officer John Ryde, hospital guard

Lt. Donald Nater, retired, worked Megan’s case

Gary Croner, Arsonist

Twyla, Megan’s former cellmate

If you peruse the list above, note that seldom are the same alphabetical letters used in more than one name, except in the case of family surnames.

I once read a novella where four character’s name began with the letter M; three began with the letter R, and two with a T. Of the entire alphabet, and of the endless names and combinations that could be used, why must our characters seem similar in any aspect unless for a purpose? Our intention in creating likable stories is to give each character a different personality. That is further delineated by using names that look and sound totally different from one another.

Make a list of your characters’ names and their positions in the story. Try to use any letter only once. It may be an eye opener.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.

About Mike Angley

Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the Child Finder Trilogy. He retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 2007 following a 25-year career as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He held 13 different assignments throughout the world, among which were five tours as a Commander of various units, to include two Air Force Squadrons and a Wing. He is a seasoned criminal investigator and a counterintelligence and counterterrorism specialist. In his last assignment, he was Commander of OSI Region 8 with responsibility for all of Air Force Space Command. He’s fond of saying, “If it entered or exited Earth’s atmosphere, I had a dog in the fight!”
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