How Not to Name Your Main Character

Don’t do this:

When I started working on my main character, as usual, I didn’t have a name in mind, but as I was developing her, I was doing my preschool teacher internship, and I was getting to know the kindergarteners. There was this girl with a very harsh personality, and at first neither of us seemed to click. As the year went on, I figured out her personality a bit and grew to love her for her uniqueness. She was smart, funny, and, yes, could be harsh, but now it was in a way I generally felt was entertaining (there were a lot worse ways she could act, as her peers demonstrated almost every day).

And then I realized that was how I wanted my main character to be–guarded, hard to get close to, but endearing and pure-hearted. So I imagined this child as a teenager, and the problems I’d had developing the character disappeared.

That would have been fine. She’s still a character I’ve made up; the girl was really just inspiration, but then I had to go and name my character after the girl. I usually try not to base any of my characters on real life, so this was new territory. I suppose I didn’t think much about it. I do sometimes give characters children’s names I liked, but they have nothing to do with said child’s personality.

But I did it and wrote the book, and from the start I was in love with this name. And now I’ve reached the point where I can’t ethically continue with this name. I’ve been trying out different names, and nothing is the same. I want to get the new name in now so I can be used to it as I edit and start thinking of her in the right terms. I think it will work out eventually. A name will come.

The lesson, though, is don’t do this to yourself. (Though I’m sure you’re all smart enough to not get in this mess in the first place…)

And if you’re the girl in question and you’re reading this in the future or something, hopefully you appreciate having a character based on you and don’t sue me or anything! The character’s fiction! I promise!


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