20 January 2012

The Writer's Toolbox: Naming Your Characters

I confess: I hate naming my characters. Really, I do. They all end up with these really boring names, and if they are anything interesting it becomes the central focus of the book. And I hate that. Way too much effort.

And then, I begun to realize the importance of naming characters, especially after reading Diane Carlisle's (very funny) post on the impact of character names (read it here).

So, then I realized, there has to be tools out there to help us figure out what names these character's should be...and so today, I present to you my favorite tools to help you name your characters.

Personality-Based Name

Is your character brave? Funny? Odd? Then you would want to use this tool:

What a Lovely Name

You can also find inspiration for your character names based off of celebrity babies and from the movies (like Harry Potter...although, I would highly suggest you think of a different character name for your book).

So far, my favorite name for "Quirky," is Blaze. That brings up an image doesn't it?

James Dean "Giant"
Photo Copyrights by ElizaPaton

Okay, I'm done fantasizing. Onward!

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Themed Names

For my own fantasy....book....I based a lot of my character names off of herbs, spices, and plants. I found a lot of the names from this weird book I found once that I have no idea what happened to it.

So, I found this other site for you that has a unique approach to names and the history of mythological plants. You might find that a lot of the background to these plants seem to match the personality and background of your character...and that name might work for you perfectly.

Check out this site here: Plants of Greek Myth

Based on Year of Birth

In Diane's blog post, she made a good remark that naming your a character something that is more connected to a previous generation when she is born within the past couple of years may not be the best decision.

So, if you go to the Social Security Administration, they will show you popular baby names. Isn't that awesome?

Check it out here:

Popular Baby Names

Mythology-Inspired Names

Whether its the name of a character or the name of the restaurant they go to discuss the events at hand, sometimes the mythological creatures of other stories work as wonderful names.

So, I discovered Encyclopedia Mythica which serves to be a great source when trying to think up names for you characters...

Encyclopedia Mythica

Weirdo Generated Name

What do you get when you combine a hillbilly name with Ancient Greece?

Victoria Margarita apparently.

Somehow, I image she would look like that.

Okay everyone...I hope you find some good names with the tools I gave you! Have a great weekend!


  1. I'm flattered that you remembered my post. Funny indeed! Thanks for linking that blog entry. It was fun to share it.

    I never knew that the SS Administration had popular baby names. That's awesome. I will visit there often. The SS Administration's Web Analyst will see the website statistics jump way up. lol

    Thanks for this blog entry.

  2. Totally not helpful for anything other than tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, but recently I received a list of 'covered drugs' under my old health insurance, and wouldn't most of those sound like fantasy elvish (or orkish) names!

    I keep the list with me for laughs. It contains such gems as Victoza, Avandia, Vanos, Famvir, and Zemaira, among others.

  3. It's a perfectly understandable frustration, for sure. A lot of the time, I name my characters without putting a lot of thought to their names. I can't help but worry someday someone's gonna ask about whether a name had any signifiance and I have nothing, lol.
    With my central characters, whatever inspired them in the first place has some say in the name I picked. Usually they're just names that I love in general.
    One story I wrote, I had two characters, best friends, named Corey and Eric... and that was before I started watching "Boy meets World." Maybe the names leaked into my head subconsciously and came out without me realizing. The names just came to me easily enough.

  4. Good post! And you are right! I always have a hell of a time naming my characters... I am afraid that simple and common names are just too boring but that fantasy names just sound too silly. Certainly a hard task.

  5. Sometimes I feel authors try to hard to imbue characteristics about a character via their name, so the reader will establish an instant connection with them. To me, a persons name (unless its a nickname) says more about their parents than it does about them. Obviously I don't put too much effort into naming my characters. :)

  6. I think the fantasy genre has it the easiest since it seems acceptable to use strange "way-out & over-the-top" names.
    Thanks for this informative post! I'm off to check out some of the links...

  7. Thank you for these links. I insist on the best name to fit my character and I spend forever searching, so these will certainly help.

  8. Sometimes I'll randomly tap computer keys and see what comes up. I came up with a great name for a rock band that way.


  9. Thanks, Nicole! These links are very useful, and hopefully they can assist us. I was recently trying to name some characters and came across a large site (can't remember the name right off), but it gave me the meanings to some names and I was able to choose a fresh, unusual name that was symbolic for the character. but usually it is better to choose a name that is not too difficult to pronounce and that is catchy so the reader won't be put off as well as something that you, the writer, feels comfortable with and believe represents the character. What a balance! Thanks Nicole for your advice!

  10. Came by on the Weekend Warrior Blog Hop :-)
    Following GFC, FB and Google+

  11. I am called Rumpy because I was such a pain in the butt!

  12. These are such great ideas ;) I like that combo mix one, I think I might try that.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  13. I enjoyed your post. Many times, I build from an inspiration to create a more or less original name. Being in the fantasy genre allows for a lot of creativity but finding inspiration is at times tough. It's great you collected so many useful tools in one spot.

  14. @Diane Carlisle - Isn't that cool about the SSA? I never knew that either. I feel some how they should be linking back to my blog because of how awesome it was I included a link to their webpage. :) Ha ha...

    @James - That's awesome!!!! I never thought of doing that!!! Now I'm off to rumage through my medicine cabinet...

    @Jackie B- I know what you mean - if I'm ever asked about character names, I'm not sure I'll have anything to say either. It will sound way un-romantic!! How cool by the way that you thought of those names that way. I'll bet you can't ever use that pair together now, though, can you??

    @E.D. - Very true - fantasy names can be a little much but regular names sound to same-same. It's so frustrating!!

    @DL Hammons - Good point!!! It does say a lot about the parents!! Ha ha...whether they were cruel in their choice, or just sound of mind...ha ha ha...it makes me relax a little bit when it comes to names. :)

    @MISH - No kidding, huh??? I'm grateful for the fantasy novel I'm working on now because the names can be as odd as I want and it will make sense...

    @Donna Yates - Good luck on your search! Thank you for reading!!

    @Joyce Lansky - Good idea, actually!!! I want to try that next time...that kind of thing can get fun. :)
    Like almost a "message from beyond" type of thing when it comes to character names.

    @Lena Winfrey Seder - Thank you! And good point - I was just thinking about that recently that the really good names we remember aren't too complicated!!! Very good point!

    @April - Thank you for visiting!! :)

    @Rumpydog - Lol...hey, at least it fits, right? :)

    @Sarah Allen - NO kidding, right?? Isn't that an awesome one! :)

    @MAJK - So true, finding just the right name can feel really tough. Often times it won't be until the very last minute that I feel comfortable with certain names. I guess because with some names I conjure up images of who the person is like and unless it matches my character just right it won't feel like the right name!


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