14 Things To Consider Before Naming Your Characters


Screenwriting is serious business. Screenwriters don’t leave anything to chance, especially the names of each character.

Naming each character in your screenplay requires thought. Apart from not making multiple character names phonetically similar (unless they’re Sherry and Cherry the identical twins), take some time to consider your characters’ individual backstories, personalities and dramatic functions. Your character names should make your audience visualize the essence of each character,  what values they represent and how they might act in your screenplay.

Here are some things to consider before naming each character:

1) EVERY(WO)MAN

These names like John and Jane Smith are equally reserved for superheroes and common people. They don’t always need to be caped, but they do need to be ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Their names can’t be a distraction from their actions.

2) WORKING CLASS

These names are common and relatable. They should represent someone you work with, excluding your boss. Frank Gallagher and Dan Conner are good examples of this.

3) WEALTHY

What are names frequently seen in the top 1% or the Forbes richest 100 list that packs a punch? Names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs technically belong to this camp, but their names are still ostensibly ‘everyman.’ Consider names like Montgomery Burns, Arianna Huffington or John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan which have a basis of wealth and privilege attached to them.

4) POLITICAL

A character named Che, Hoover, Boudica, Liberty or Cleopatra conjures up images of powerful visionaries bucking the system and leading a revolt against the establishment.

5) GODLY

As its name suggests, these characters are named after famed gods. They can really shape your characters’ traits, thoughts, and motives. Consider Loki (Norse god of trickery), Atlas (Greek god of strength), Chaos (Greek goddess of confusion) or Hathor (Egyptian goddess of Love) as characters in your movie script.

6) RELIGIOUS

Names like Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Sara or Abraham pay homage to the scriptures. They are well-considered by their parents and signify a religious (not necessarily radical), trustworthy and worldly belief. They often have traditional values.

7) SPIRITUAL

Names like Harmony, Zen, Wind or Experience are associated with the New Age movement. These characters are grounded, philosophical, nurturing and in touch with the people surrounding them.

8) UNUSUAL

These names are often assigned to inspiring, daring, free-thinking characters. Their parents (and screenwriters) clearly wanted them to stand out from the crowd and named them appropriately. What would a character named Bliss, Fire, Neptune or Apple be like in a film?

9) ALTERNATIVE SPELLING

Alternative characters tend to march to the beat of their own drums. They are creative, adventurous, artistic and resourceful. Consider names like Addam, Jaydinn or Shireen to add to your film character roster.

10) OCCUPATIONAL

These character names are slightly less unusual than the unusual category because they are defined by their occupations. Could your film script get a lift if you write characters named Hunter, Killer, Drummer, Princess or Chef?

11) EXOTIC

Do your characters have an accent, or alluring features? Do they hail from someplace far away? If so, this category might be for you. What would a character named Evita, Angelica or Frederik add to your screenplay?

12) OTHER WORLD

These characters are not from Earth. Their names can be as outlandish or as ordinary as you can imagine. Consider the alien movies Paul starring Simon Pegg or Prot from K-PAX to illustrate the point.

13) GENDER NEUTRAL

Names which could either be male or female can be used to create confusion, excitement, and intrigue. What would a character named Shannon, Riley, Paige or Dakota be like?

14) COLONIAL

These characters have a deep link with America’s history. They tend to be conservative and stoic in nature. Names such as Jeremiah, Primrose, Hiram, and Temperance are good examples of such names.

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