Naming Characters

I’ve been thinking a lot about character names. What is the process like for you when naming your characters?

I asked you guys on the facebook page and got some great responses!I think the naming process is always interesting. I read somewhere that people believe it’s key and or important to name your characters based on the meanings or to suit the time they are set in. So it got me thinking about what other writes thought. I however don’t think that way and never name my characters based on that. That’s just my personal preference.

Character names can be really fun to pick, and the research can be too but, sometimes, it can be a pain in the ass.

Naming my characters always comes down to the story line. I end up always choosing a name based on the plot. I sometimes like to choose a name that has no relevance to the story so if anyone assumes it’ll give them a hint into what will happen, it won’t. Sometimes I choose it to represent the character’s future in the story, or even to mislead the readers into believing the character is someone they are not.

I have a binder in which one section is filled with hundreds of names I like, along with their meanings because despite the story line I do want the name to fit. I have to feel that this name will be best suited for the character too. I feel as if I’m naming a child of mine – in a different form. So even if the name is meant to have a meaning of evil but it doesn’t sound right, I’ll simply look for another name.

Another thing I find when I name my characters is that I really dislike choosing common names. I try to stray away as far as possible from the top ten lists, or favorite names. I love the odd, unique and strange names.

See what responses were given to this question below : )

463606_214748895348713_353196389_oR.A. Mizer “For contemporary work I tend to check a list of most popular names from the year my character was born. I don’t usually pick something at the top of the list, I like the names towards the upper middle of the list. Last names vary, but it sometimes depends on heritage and genre. With paranormal/supernatural characters can have names ranging from normal to strange, depending on the subject matter.”

Kristen Duvall “My characters name themselves. Usually when I think of a character, their name is the first thing that comes to mind. Changing it is nearly impossible and never feels right. If it’s a minor character, I may look up baby names to find something that fits, but usually they just come to me.”

Shannon Thompson “Babynames.com! I love spending hours upon hours just searching around. The “advanced search” is my favorite tool to use as I can find meanings for names that mean something for my character or a name with the same ethnic/culture background. It also helps me challenge myself to find names I’ve never used before.”

Holly Pena “When I struggle for a name I will use something generic or an initial at the beginning. When the story fleshes out more with personality the character eventually names themself. Other times it is random. I work in retail for my day job so I come across a lot of names that way for inspiration.”

Brenda Tetreault  “I’m a cashier at a gas station on a military installation. A lot of my character’s last names have come from regular customers that I am quite fond of. First names? Well, I actually keep a running list of mens’ and womens’ names that I like, and I just play the mix and match game.”

Nicole-Tetterton “First names… if I’m having a problem picking a name I will browse some lists… when a name feels right I stop.”

Dianne Gallagher “I’m a stickler for names. They have to sound and feel right. Five different baby name books sit on the my shelf in the reference section. Sometimes I page through them and focus on origin or meaning. Other times, I’ll flip pages with my eyes closed and let my finger find a name. Those names seldom make it to the draft, but they do solidify what I’m looking for. Bottom line… you can’t spend months and even years with a character whose name you don’t really like.”

What about you?

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4 thoughts on “Naming Characters

  1. Katie Sullivan says:

    My main characters name themselves for the most part (and sometimes they don’t tell me their real real name until the very end… cheeky), but secondary characters are fun – I write historical fantasy, set mostly in Ireland and Scotland, so the challenge is to find something historically and culturally appropriate but also readable. Sometimes I simply open a name book to a page and play with what I find, sometimes I use historical databases for popular names by era. It has to fit the character and feel right, but I love the process.

  2. chrispavesic says:

    You mentioned that you like to stay away from names that are common. I do this as well. I will research and find names that are “trending” so that I do not choose one that is overly popular.
    Choosing a name for a secondary character can be more difficult. Sometimes these characters are just there to serve a function in the story and may only appear for a few lines of text. Yet I feel that they also are deserving of unique names.

  3. ontyrepassages says:

    I write fantasy so there’s no pulling name off a list, though that also means the sky is the limit. Well, sort of. I still follow my own rules. Different regions have different rules. Too, I’m not above placing hidden meaning in names on occasion.

  4. Serenity says:

    Many of my characters are based on people I know. For example, in The Fantastical Life of Serenity, the main female Serenity is based on me…it was easy to pick a name lol. The main male characters were all aspects of my husband and the supporting characters were almost all based on friends or acquaintances. My current WIP has a lot of characters based on my mates from university and I am using variants of their names, or nicknames. Usually the right name just hits me. If it doesn’t, I check out baby names sites and look for meanings and how the name flows with the rest of them as well as the story. 🙂

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