Siwel and Nohan and Dag: Bad Ways to Name Characters

Anne Marble
5 min readMay 17, 2022

We’ve all been there. You’re writing a novel, and you need a name for a character. Quickly! That’s how you can end up with Siwel and Kensin. Or with a dozen dudes named Dag.

Here are some bad, silly, goofy, and outright terrible character naming techniques that backfired on me.

Beige game tiles with black lettering on a dark blue furry blanket display the name DAG … KENSIN… and SIWEL…
Source: Photo by the author.

1) Don’t Turn a Familiar Name or Term Backwards

This is how you end up with a character named Siwel. But it was urgent! My hero needed an assistant. Right away! He was walking to his assistant’s desk, and I didn’t have time to look up names. But wait! There was a book on my desk by Lewis Carroll. So Siwel was born. (It could have been worse. I could have named him Llorrac.)

Then, someone read my draft and asked how Siwel was pronounced. And I had to admit, “I don’t know. It’s Lewis spelled backwards.” At least we got a good laugh out of it.

Beige game tiles with black lettering on a dark blue furry blanket display MOT, YOB, LLUM, and NAR.
Source: Photo by the Author.

2) Don’t Give Your Character a Name That Looks Cool but Sounds Wrong

There’s that pronunciation thing again. I had a character named Nohan. It looks great on paper!

Then, my professor saw an early draft and asked, “Is he an amputee?” That took me a moment to figure out. Whoops. “No-Han.” Eventually, I renamed that character Merik.

3) Don’t Name Your Character After a Piece of Office Equipment

Once again, I was desperate. My story needed a villain. Only what was his name? I was using a Kensington wrist pad. And so Kensin was born. The name did not match the character. But he’s lucky I didn’t name him Wrist Pad.

4) Don’t Pick a Character Name Based Just on the Meaning of the Name

Thanks to baby naming books, I fell in love with the idea of picking character names based on the meanings of their names and not how they fit the character. That’s how I ended up with heroines with names like Carissa (“dear one”) and Devona (divine one). They ended up sounding like soap opera villains who would end up in a catfight with each other.

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Anne Marble

I’m a writer and a copy editor with experience in editing science and engineering articles. Click Lists to find my most popular articles. And hidden gems.