What’s in a name, right? Shakespeare asked that question. One of my pet peeves as a screenwriter is when I would see lazy names on television or in the movies, or cliched names, when someone needs a character Ben Goodman or Ben Truman, like he’s a true man. It’s like, come on, that’s not original. It’s not thematic. It’s cliched. Also, lazy names, Joe Smith. Give your character a little thought.

In the moment when you’re writing, you don’t really want to get hung up on that. You want to create. The name is often the last thing you want to even think about, but what I do is I keep a list on my iPhone of great names that I come across just in daily life or anywhere, and then I refer to that list later when I’m creating a character. It just makes it so much easier to come up with something rich.

I met a woman, her last name was [Wonzo]. I’m like, “That is a perfect last name for a character, Wonzo, and her first name is even better. Her first name is amazing, but I’m not going to tell you that name because I don’t want you to bother her, and I’m going to save it for myself anyway. But that is definitely a character I’m going to use at some point.

So keep a list and then just refer to it, so you don’t have to waste time and energy later. You could be inspired by this name. I talk about the craft of writing and making it in Hollywood. Please, I welcome you to follow me everywhere to be part of this conversation. The links are in the bio @MichaelJaminWriter.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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