Thank you, guest blogger Andre Cruz, for the terrific ideas in this article, first published on The Write Life.
When you start writing your story, how long does it take you to come up with character names? Often, choosing the perfect name for your protagonist and antagonist can take ages, especially when you’re not sure how to start.
I’ve been there. After wasting days staring at a blank computer screen, attempting to come up with names for all of my characters, I came up with some helpful naming strategies. Lucky for you, I like to share.
Using any of these methods cuts down the amount of time I spend coming up with character names and lets me get back to the actual writing. Next time you’re stuck and can’t decide what to name your dystopian sharpshooting heroine, try one of these ideas.
1. “Borrow” from a friend or family member
This is the easiest way to create a fictional character name because you aren’t actually creating one! All you are doing is copying. Maybe your father is your hero, so you decide to name your protagonist after him.
Just be careful. Make sure you ask permission and let him know ahead of time of how he will be portrayed. You may think all you will be using is his name, but some of his personality traits may unwittingly end up in your story as well. Especially if you are the type of writer that skips outlines and lets the story unfold in front of you as you write it.
So watch out. These people know where you live!
2. Use Fido and your street
Confused? Let me explain.
Just use your pet’s name as the fictional character’s first name and your street’s name as your character’s last name. Mine would be Butch Fields and yes, he comes from the rough part of a fictional town.
3. Match name with theme
Funnily enough, I have found that the name Andre shows up under themes like manly, strong and brave, which of course I am… after a few drinks.
4. Combine the names of your favorite authors
A second helping of Stephen Rice, anyone? Guess what I did there. This is very similar to number one.
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable using the names of living writers, so how about this… Jack Hemingway? See, I used Jack London and… you get it.
5. Use a name translator
Yep, there is such a thing. And here you thought number one was too easy!
A name translator is a great program that allows a writer to easily discover names in other languages. However, you already have to be thinking of a name. Try tip one and then this tip, or get started by just putting your own name into the translator.
You can head to your favorite search engine and search for ‘name translators’ or ‘my name in’ and type in any language, such as Chinese or Hebrew. You will find plenty of free name translators to use. So if you are looking for a really great foreign name for your character, you can skip Rosetta Stone.
6. Use an encyclopedia and your creative side
No matter what genre it is, think about where your story takes place. Your setting can inspire names for your characters. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it).
Does it have mountains? Are they a part of your fictional characters’ culture? Then research people who have mountains as a part of their culture, such as the Andean people of Peru and the Appalachian people of North America.
What if your story takes place on a faraway planet? Your setting likely looks a bit like some place you’ve seen before on Earth, or maybe a mix of several places. Think of those real places that inspire your off-world setting and think of the real people that make those places their home. Research those places to get a feel of what your fictional culture could be.
After completing your research on the culture or cultures that inspired your fictional one, use the names in those real cultures for inspiration for the names of your fictional characters.
How do you come up with names for your characters? [Note from Andrea: Share in the comments below.]
I’m participating in Cee’s Share Your World Challenge today.
What is your favorite go to beverage? Water, coffee, tea, coke, soda (non-alcoholic)
I live in the desert of Arizona, so I drink a lot of water. If I’m out and about, I usually bring some with me.
That said, I must have a cup of coffee at breakfast. I try very hard to limit it to one, but on critique group days, all bests are off. My current favorite is Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s 10% Kona Blend.
I also must have a Diet Coke Lime with lunch. Again, only one, or I’ll be bouncing off walls until the wee hours. No caffeine past noon. Alright, 1:00 pm, but that’s it.
I like tea and diet soda, and I’ll treat myself to non-caffeine ones at any time. Favorite sodas are Fresca, Sierra Mist, and ginger ale. I’ll often brew a cup of camomile tea if I’m reading before bed.
Can you change a car tire?
Yes, but I don’t want to. I have AAA now for that.
But in the olden days, when we were raising five kids on Greg’s teaching salary, there was no money for luxuries like AAA. One day, as I was driving the kids to school, Erin said, “Mom, I just heard the tire pop.” I assured her it didn’t, but she was right. I couldn’t drive home. I parked the car at the school, walked home with baby Kate (luckily, I always kept a stroller in the car), and walked back with her to pick the kids up after school.
When my oldest daughter came home from middle school, I put her in charge of her siblings and walked back to start the tire change. I told her to send her dad when he got home.
I could have just let Greg deal with it, but I knew how exhausted he’d be after a day of teaching. So, I pulled out the manual and started the process step by step.
By the time Greg got there, I’d jacked up the car, undone the lug nuts, removed the tire, and retrieved the donut from the back of the mini-van. He finished the job in no time, but I could have done it if I’d had to.
Are you a listener or talker?
Both. Sometimes people ask me to shut up, because I can dominate the conversation. But I enjoy listening to someone who has something to say. I appreciate verbal exchange with someone who can hold up his end of the conversation.
Would you rather have no internet or no cell phone?
No cell phone. I don’t have a smart phone, just the bare bones variety mobile phone, and honestly, if I had to rely on my land line, it would be fine with me. But no internet–that would be like no air.
Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?
We just celebrated my youngest child’s twenty-seventh birthday, and I am so grateful to see the competent young woman she has become.
I look forward to every day. Life is good.
For twenty-seven years, I’ve lived seven miles from the Gilbert (AZ) Historical Museum, and never visited it. That changed last month when a friend invited me to accompany her to a quilt show there.
The museum documents the story of the farming community, which sprang up in the early 1900s when the Arizona Eastern Railway established a rail line between Florence and Phoenix. But it also preserves the memory of our country as experienced by our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents.
Full of charming artifacts, the museum catapulted me into memories of my extended family, particularly my aunt’s in-laws, who farmed in New Jersey. I will intersperse pictures of items from the permanent collection amongst the photos of the quilt show.
You can click on the smaller images to enlarge and see the captions.
On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, a group of quilters gathers at the museum to work.
Who wouldn’t want a laundry room equipped with these lovely washing machines, fully loaded with mechanical wringers?
Seeing the crazy quilt below triggered a memory from my childhood. When I was a little girl, an elderly friend of my parents gave them an old crazy quilt like this, heavily embroidered silk bordered and backed with burgundy velvet. My mother gave it to me to use as a bedspread on my bed, until it deteriorated into shreds. Knowing what I know now, I wish I’d had the option of saving it. I suspect it was already pretty worn out when we got it.
World War I artifacts from the Military exhibit:
Let us never forget our men and women in uniform who have perished in service to our country.
The quilt show runs through May 30, 2016. It was so worth my $4 (senior discount) to see it. And the museum is absolutely charming. I’ll be back again. And the quilt show is an annual event! See you next year, maybe.
Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted line and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim worked into them by a skilled craftsman (Exodus 26:1 NIV).