On Renaming Characters

While re-drafting a book, you might find that you need to rename some of your characters.

Maybe their name is too similar to that of another character, or it's a name that has negative connotations in the real world (Adolf, for example). Or maybe it's not working for a completely different reason.

Whatever the reason might be, a change is in order.

The trouble is, a character's original name can seem more natural to you, especially if you've been through several drafts already. It's their name -- how could you possibly change it without making it seem like a different person?

The simple solution is to just do it. After a while, you'll be able to think of the character by their new name. That said, there are some things you can do to make it easier for you to accept the change.

1. Pick a name you like.

Is there another name that you absolutely love? Well, as long as it doesn't cause problems, like the original name did, you can totally use it. Using a name you like will help you to embrace the change. If you can't think of any names you like off the top of your head, use Nameberry.com, or a similar website, to research names.

2. Pick a name that is similar to the original name.

This will make the change as painless as possible. For example, in my current work-in-progress, I had to rename a character because her name rhymed with that of another character. Her original name was Ari, so I changed it to Ana -- a name with a completely different sound, but one which also has three letters and begins with A.

3. Make sure it still sounds good.

Does your character have a last name that you'd rather not change? Do they get mentioned together with another character a lot (e.g. Bill and Ted, Mulder and Scully)? Make sure that their new name still sounds good in these contexts.

Overall, the real solution to renaming a character is to give it time. Remember: it's completely okay if it takes a little while to accept that your character has a new name.

It's just part of the process.

Renaming characters can be a brainstorming challenge.

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