Character-Naming Advice for NaNoWriMo

A few days ago, I posted some general advice about naming fictional characters. And today I have another character-naming tip to offer, but today’s tip is specifically for name-lovers planning to give NaNoWriMo a shot next month.

My suggestion? Experiment with non-name identifiers for your characters.

Your goal is to hit 50,000 words in just 30 days, so you don’t want to squander any time picking out perfect character names. Because, let’s be honest, that’s exactly what a lot of us would do. :)

Sure, you could use whatever names emerge from your subconscious as you write. And you could tell yourself that you’ll go back and pick better names once the month is over. But if you do this, you’ll be in danger of growing attached to those temporary names, which would make the re-naming process very tricky.

To avoid the pain of having to re-name your characters, consider not naming them at all, at least at first. Here are some alternative identifiers you could use in place of names this November:

  • Archetypes, like: Warrior, Detective, Rebel, Artist, Mentor.
  • Occupations or Roles, like: Mechanic, Businessman, Chef, Neighbor, Sister.
  • Symbols of a dominant personality trait, like: Crowbar (manipulative), Lightbulb (inventive), Sweatpants (lazy), Greenjuice (healthy).
  • Simple Descriptions, like: Teenager, Oldlady, Tallman, Readhead, Pegleg.

Mix and match identifiers from any of the above categories, or create an identification system of your own. Just do whatever allows you to both write quickly and avoid premature name-attachment.

If you’re a name-lover who has participated in NaNoWriMo before, how did you handle character names? What advice would you offer?

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