Friday Five – Character Names

Choosing character names

I find naming my characters a challenge. There are some days I wonder how my kids were named! Here are five ways I find names for characters in the stories I write:

  1. Name just comes to me – there are occasions when a name just comes to me, even before the plot of the story. When this happens, it’s fantastic as it means I don’t need to search for a name for that character. Unfortunately, this isn’t as common as I would like it to be.
  2. Look in a Baby Names book or app – I have a small collection of baby names books as well as a baby names app on my phone. If I have an idea of the sort of name I’m looking for, I’ll go to the app first as there are more search options, such as looking up the meaning first. Sometimes it’s good just to browse through the books for inspiration.
  3. Ask on social media – as well as having my own Facebook page, I’m also the member of a number of writing groups. When I’m stuck, I’ll sometimes post that I’m looking for a name for a character and give a bit about the sort of name I want and the type of character I’m writing about. There are some great names that have been suggested through this process.
  4. Start writing – there has been the odd occasion when I just start writing and, in the place of the character’s name I’ll simply put ‘NAME’ in red and come back to it later. Sometimes a name will come in the process of writing the story.
  5. Read a book or magazine, watch TV or a movie – if I’m really stuck, I’ll take a break and read a book or magazine, or even watch TV or a movie, really anything that has names in it. If I’m watching something I’ll pay attention to the credits as well as the names of the characters. You never know when the perfect name for a character will jump out.

Even with this, there are still some characters that I have trouble naming, but they all get named in the end. I hope this gives you some ideas on naming the characters in your stories. If you have some tips on naming characters you’d like to add to this list, include it in the comments.

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  1. I find names the hardest too. I have often just left it xx until the right fitting name comes along!

  2. Sakuntala Gananathan says:

    I would normally write a rough outline of the character in my story and give him/her a name in just 3 letters so that I save on time, typing out the same over the numerous pages. e.g. Tom, Ted and Sue. Once my piece is completed, I name the characters by clicking Find and Replace all. I look up names from sports pages for younger persons, and obituaries for older characters. But I am particular to mix the first and family name so that my character is not linked to anyone alive or dead. Also, it is safer to seek out names commonly used instead of, say, Archibald or Winterbloom.

  3. I love authors who truly turn their characters’ names into a form of art or story in themselves – Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde both come quickly to mind. I love how Terry uses words that aren’t traditional names, such as Ponder Stibbons, Anathema Device and Magrat Garlick. Jasper uses names to further his plot line, in cases like the two henchmen Done and For. Or the other two henchmen, Mr Cannon and Ms Fodder. I’d love to emulate this kind of writing!

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