character names

CHARACTER NAMES: WHICH DO YOU GIVE?

Posted on Posted in Screenwriting Tips
Character names: which do you give?

I had that problem of deciding character names writing my first script, and I thank God for “Control + F”, changing wrong names that had been used multiple times over many pages became a thing of 30 seconds. So, yeah, you can start off with any names; don’t allow that break the flow of your story telling. The real names, the ones that are truly meant to be, will come to you along the line. At least, that’s what happened with me (doesn’t guarantee you have the best names though).

There are many articles on the net that talk about picking the right names for your character. My question, here, is “Why need you do a research? Doesn’t that confuse and distract you from the simple names you probably already thought up?” Not every main characters’ names need be fancy; how many we wan remember?. To me, any name that comes to mind for your characters is fine. Isn’t it when you have no idea that you go out sourcing names? Maybe when I progress in this screenwriting business, I’ll finally understand why people go out of their way to source character names. Reminds me of those baby name-books that trended in the last decade (or are they still available?).

Sincerely…

…there are some killer names that I’ve heard watching movies; the kind of names that just roll off the tongue: James Bond, Blade, Jigsaw, Sharon Stone– (wait…that’s not one of the character names, that’s a real name! Sometimes you just mix them up, don’t you?). Maybe that’s the motivation people get when they go out sourcing names. They want their character to have a memorable name.  But believe me, these names were ordinary names before the movies they are associated with became popular, and then voila!

Moving on.

It’s also important to note that naming your character should also marry with the race, tribe or nationality of the proposed character. You don’t have a Chinese character named Joshua, or an obvious Igbo man named Bashiru. Actually, you can, if the so called dude was born by a certain mixed marriage couple (or some other reason) which must, somehow, be included as a detail in the main or sub-story. But I’m also mentioning this because I’ve seen some Nigerian writers take this lightly.

On a more serious note, my top 3 not-to-use kind of character names are…

  • those that are too long (a lot of difficulty saying them. So weird!)
  • names that sound alike (like Jack, Jake, Jane. Nah! Who are you trying to confuse? Your audience?)
  • names that are not suitable for adult characters. Imagine naming a 62 year old Nigerian woman named Sharon. How realistic is that? Did that name trend at all at the time of her birth? Come on!

Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.

She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.

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