Screenwriting 101: What’s in a Name

By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)

When a writer sits down and begins to pen his script, one of the hardest parts is naming the characters. A name is very important, and writers will agonize over name after name until they finally come up with the perfect fit.

The name has to not only exemplify the character, but also be believable to the reader. There are many name conventions, but there are good ways and bad ways to find the perfect name.

The Porn Star

This is a way to create interesting names without resorting to any real thinking. The theory is this is how a person would craft a porn star name if it was needed. Since no one would want to pay to see me naked, I’ve never had to use this professionally and neither should you. You take the name of a pet and the name of the street you have lived on and put them together. For example, Rex Chestnut or Prince Plum. Unless your movie revolves around a porn star, I would not suggest using this method. The names may have personality, but odds are they won’t match your characters.

The Baby Book

Many writers purchase a baby naming book and use it to help find their perfect name. They have the ability to find the meaning of the names and incorporate them into the character. This could be good or bad. There is a fine line between being clever and being incredibly lame. You can have a character that’s a natural hunter and leader and call him Leo. That’s clever. When you have an angst ridden teenager and name her Beautiful Swan, then you have officially entered lameville. Bella Swan is one of the worst character names I have ever read, and it belongs in a cheap romance novel. Yeah, I went there.

The Obvious

Writers sometimes get a little lazy naming characters. Instead of putting any actual thought into a name, they choose names that are obvious fits for the character–too obvious. For example, you can have a banker named James Greed or a baker named…well…Baker. That doesn’t mean you can’t have characters with names like these, but don’t be so obvious that it leaves the movie goers going, “Really?”

Follow Your Instincts

The best method for naming a character is to simply follow your instincts. Draw from the experiences and people in your life and craft fun unique names that just seem to fit in your mind. Don’t use the exact names from people in your life, because that will just get you a lawsuit. Instead, use them as inspiration on new and unique names.

Do Your Research

When writing a book set in the middle ages or during Greek and Roman times, do a little research about names. Ending a name is eus and ulus doesn’t make it a Greek name. For example, Joculus Bombasticus. This is only a good name is you are making the Mr. Boombasticus movie. I just brought the Shaggy reference. That. Just. Happened.

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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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