Character names in screenplays: 12 things to consider when assigning names to your screenplay characters

Script-writers often think that the easiest or perhaps the most insignificant element of a screenplay is the character name. They think they can just give names to the characters they have created arbitrarily. They do not know that taking some time to think carefully about the names which the characters would bear is very important.

Unknown to writers, there may be some guidelines that can help them in determining the kinds and types of names they can give to their characters.
These set of guidelines can go a long way in helping a writer assign appropriate names to his characters; and thus, making the characters, the actions, the settings, the story structure and the theme of the screenplay to be in conformity.

The guidelines are below;


The guidelines are below;


(1) Title of the screenplay:
The title of your screenplay can in a way suggest the names you would give your characters. Tough looking titles like 'gun battles' 'shots and after shots' 'dead deals' may have their characters' (especially villains) names sounding tough too. The characters in this type of titles are usually highly trained gun professionals or something related to it. They will be mean and very seriously minded too.
It may not be suitable giving them a soft toned name as this may not represent the action packed title.
The same thing goes for the soft sounding tittles; where the characters' names therein sound soft too.

(2) Theme of the screenplay:
In a case where the title of the screenplay may not actually represent its content, the names given to the characters may be highly determined by its theme.
A theme like this: "a fight to avoid infant mortality" should have the young characters therein bearing lovely pets names. These pets names will show how attached the parents are to those children; bearing in mind the other kids they had lost earlier.
The other characters' names will equally have to be names that wish death would never come to them.
A fight against infant mortality is just as same as a prayer to avoid death. The characters that fight and pray against the death of their children should not bear tough, fearful or obscure names.
A writer should understand that if the names of his characters are in consonance with the theme he is exploring, he will experience a boost in the story and plot drive. There will be a free flow of the screenplay.

(3) Story of the screenplay:
The type of story you are telling should have characters whose names represent that story.
A story about a group of young beautiful ladies who always dupe their boyfriends to obtain the boyfriends' money should have 'sexy' names. Apart from having 'sexy' names, their names should also describe the kind of job they do.
For a story which is all about sciences and medical executions, the scientists and the doctors who are the characters therein should bear decent names that describe their professions.

(4) Setting of the screenplay:
Is it the rural setting, or the urban setting?
Wherever, just make sure your characters have befitting names.
Characters that live in the urban areas are more civilized, but those of them who live in the rural areas are more native.
Civilized names should be given to civilized characters, and native names should be given to native ones.

(5) Background:
This includes the culture or the religion you are exploring in your screenplay.
Of course these cultures you write about are the real cultures of a people in the earth. These people have a linage of specific names. If you want to really capture the real cores and values of these cultures, you have to imitate the real names of the owners of the cultures. The same goes for religion.

(6) Official purposes:
There may be some reasons why you want to write a screenplay. It may be for an official purpose or just for casual purpose.
One of the official purposes may be in the case where you want to upload the screenplay on a script writing weblog.
Now, a weblog is a platform that allows readers all over the world to get access to whatever it has in it. These readers all over the world have different backgrounds, cultures, languages and religions. But yet, there is still an accepted and common means of communication and sharing. English language is to an extent the world's common language. So bearing this in mind, you have to be very objective in the kinds of names you assign to your characters. These names should be common (mainly pure English names) to the readers. They should be names the readers can understand and pronounce with ease.

(7) Audience to the screenplay:
Your expected audience should have a right to see or hear names that will sound pleasing to their ears.
You know where you live; you know the reach of your screenplay; you know the size and background of your audience. Just give your characters the names this particular audience will like.


Here are other steps to take while choosing names for your characters

(a) Distinguish the names. Every single character in the screenplay should have specific names. There should be nothing like 'Man' 'plumber' 'painter' 'the first guy' 'the second nurse' 'man one'

(b) Do not let the names sound alike; especially those of the main characters.

(c) Try and let the names concur with every other element of your screenplay.


More reasons for the right names for your characters

(i) Simplicity: The right names for your characters make your screenplay very simple and enjoyable to read.

(ii) Memory: When the names are well distinguished and specified, the audience can easily remember them; thus your screenplay can easily be remembered too.

(iii) The right names can express a particular issue about the character; in the sense that the characters will be further described by these names.

Written by: Winston 'Winny Greazy' Oge

Follow on twitter: https://twitter.com/winny_greazy 
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