What’s in a Name?
-Adding character to your character-
by T Severe, Ph.D., Screenwriter/filmmaker


Naming your story’s characters is often fun, but it can also serve your story.  As you know, Final Draft has a name database which is extremely helpful.  You can also find name generators on the net.  Use both as needed.

But some things to think about:  Naming a character can help the audience get some insight into the character’s makeup—their dimensionality.  We’ve all been taught that your principal characters should have a unique ‘voice’ so that early on in your story each character stands out, and is clearly distinguishable from the others (emotionally, personality-wise, etc.)  Names should reflect each character’s makeup.  Obviously if you’re writing a period piece you may need to research naming conventions from that period.  Or, if your story is set in a particular cultural environment, naming conventions would need to be followed as well to add authenticity.  If your story is contemporary, don’t be afraid to make up a name if your character demands it.  How many times have you written a part for a character and somehow they magically named themself as you were writing?  Just surf the net for five minutes and look at the array of names in today’s multicultural world.  Pretty cool.  A name can add texture to your story.

Also consider that a name can be a “cognitive shortcut” that can immediately provide background on your character with no added screen time to your script.  A gangster story: Robert enters.  OR Bullet enters.  A name can say a lot.   A housewife character who is reserved, always in the shadow of her dominating husband, a “plain Jane” type of character —Jane, or Sue or Mary?  A mild, anxious, solitary, mousy store manage type- Fred, Walter, probably not Rocky.

We’ve all been cautioned about overusing tropes in our scripts.  But at times it can act as a shorthand for information.  Sometimes a name can create this type of shortcut.   Indiana “Indy” Jones.  Maverick.  Axel Foley.  Morpheus.  Luke Skywalker.  And yes, even Pussy Galore of James Bond fame.    You get the idea.

Used sparingly, careful thought to naming some of your principal characters can make them memorable, in turn making your story memorable.  

Keep writing

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