I don’t know about you guys, but for me, naming a character is like naming a child. When creating a character, the name you choose for them is incredible significant. It ties them to the setting, to their roots, even to a greater symbolic meaning. I can’t start writing about a character until they are given their name, the name that just fits. Here are my tips on naming fictional characters.
Baby Naming Website
Okay, this may sound weird, right off the bat, but trust me on this one. Those baby naming websites for overly pregnant ladies are actually really helpful. If you are looking for a name with a certain letter, number of syllables, or cultural origin, there’s information on those kind of sites. Just be careful if someone sees you looking at baby names, they may be concerned.
If your story takes place in another time period, keep in mind the historical context. Find out what names were common at the time. If you google something like ‘names from 1920s’, a list of popular names from the 1920s will probably pop up. Also the Social Security Administration website will appear with a ranked list of common names of the decade. It’s pretty useful, and it’ll give you a feel for the time.
Sound it out.
Out loud. If it doesn’t sound right, or its difficult to pronounce, or just sounds like a mouthful, something’s off. Keep trying. Once you’ve found a name that suits your character, it should just click.
((Pet Peeve Break))
((I have this pet peeve of names that sound completely made up. Like Chloe Stormgrave or or Jace Winterfang. When would you ever meet someone with a name like that in real life? Other than in a game of Dungeons and Dragons? Choosing a name just because it sounds cool is just unrealistic. Yes, I know, somewhere out there may be a Stormgrave family or whatever, but you gotta admit, it is an unlikely name. So please, for me, choose a name that sounds realistic and not like a character for an RPG game. Seriously, it just bothers me. ))
Named After Someone
Occasionally, I’ll name a character after someone in my life, whether they are still alive or deceased. Not their full name, of course, usually just their first name. Another option is naming them after an author, or an actor, or some lady on the news, anyone really. Names are all over the place, you just have to keep your eyes open. My character Oscar, his last name, Fitzgerald, came from F Scott Fitzgerald.
Be Careful of Similar names.
Try not to have two characters’ names sound similar. Stuff like that can really confuse readers. One time, in fiction writing class, a classmate had two characters named Flip and Clip whom, if I remember correctly, were involved in gang related activities or hunted by police. One of them, we’re not sure who, got shot by an undercover cop and died. The whole class had no idea which one died nor what was happening. Just be aware of that and distinguish your characters from one another.
Hope these tips were helpful for the next time your stuck on a nameless character. Tell me in the comments below how you go about naming the characters in your stories.
Write with Heart,
7 thoughts on “5 Tips for Naming Characters”
I’m obsessed with names. I have no idea why but whenever I’m introduced to a new person, their name says a lot about how I feel about them. When it comes to writing, I just wait until the name kind of comes to me. I have never felt like I’ve “named” my characters but I think about how they will act and the things they will go through and then wait until a name comes to me….BOOM, that’s the name. Great post!
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I chose “Rae Riley” for my teen detective because I thought alliteration made it memorable. I also liked using a male-sounding name that was unusual but not weird for a girl. Then I wrote a backstory for it. Rae’s mother named her Rae Hope because she was her ray of hope.
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