Naming a character is like naming a child. No, I’m not being over-dramatic. Writers already treat their characters as their children, but throwing in the responsiblity of picking out a good name for them? It’s daunting. The name needs to fit the character, and then said person will be stuck with the name for the rest of the book (or books, if it’s a series). Readers will know this character by their name. It has to be fitting, unique, and interesting. That’s enough pressure to make any writer run for the hills.
It usually takes me forever to find the right name. I adore names and their meanings, but I’m also really picky with what names I give to my characters. After all, they’re going to be burdened with it for the rest of their lives. I have to make it count! But, even if it takes a while, I always end up with a name I like.
If you don’t know where to begin with character-naming (or you just want some more resources), then this post is for you. I’m going to outline four ways that you can get started with finding the perfect moniker for your little written people – hopefully while cutting down on all the stress and the headaches!
1. Browse baby naming sites (or just sites about names in general).
Baby name sites are a writer’s best friend. They provide large collections of names, from the ordinary to the unique. Depending on the site, they also show pronunciation, origin, and meaning. You can find names that you’ve never heard of before, but that happen to fit right in with your novel.
There are two main ways you can go about using name sites for character-naming – casual browsing and going by name meanings. Casual browsing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. If you don’t particularly know what you’re looking for, then you can search for all the different names provided on a site and see if any catch your eye. However, if you know that you want a name that has a specific meaning, most sites have a filter for that. You type in the meaning you want, and the site will give you all the names it has that roughly mean what you put in. For example, the other day I was searching for names that meant “warrior”.
Below is my go-to site for naming characters:
2. Pick names from those around you.
Do you think your uncle has a really unique name? What about your cousin, boss, or classmate? Do you adore the name of a character on your favorite TV show?
Names are all around us. Sometimes we meet people who have really awesome names, and it’s totally okay to steal those names for your book. 😉 Pay attention. If you like any of the names you hear, then take note! Consider bestowing one upon a character of yours.
3. Make up a name.
When all else fails, string a bunch of letters together! Don’t be afraid to make up your own unique name. Mix together a pronunciation in your head and then spell it out. However, make sure that it’s relatively easy to pronounce, and watch the length. Your reader definitely doesn’t want a name like Smeglxflygarop staring them in the face every few paragraphs. Don’t be afraid to get creative, though. Maybe the perfect name for your character is the one you make.
4. Keep a names notebook.
Finally, you’ll probably come across names while searching that you like, but don’t fit the character in question. Write them down in a notebook and keep them for future reference. The next time you need a name, try looking there first. One of the ones you had written down might be just the name you need. While I did end up finding a first and last name for my character that meant “warrior”, I found several others that I liked. I wrote the names and their meanings down, and someday I’ll find a character to fit them.
Try some of these out, and good luck naming your characters!
It’s your turn! How do you find good names for your characters? What are some really interesting names you have found? Do tell!