Tag Archives: Character names

Guest Post: 12 Tips for Giving Your Characters the Best Names, by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

elements of fiction

In fiction, a name helps readers form an image of what a character looks and acts like. If you don’t believe us, try picturing Frodo Baggins with the name Mycroft Holmes, or Darth Vader as Atticus Finch. At Writer’s Relief, we know the right names can help your readers really connect with the characters in your short story or novel. And depending on how many characters are in your story, you might have to come up with a lot of names! Use these strategies and tips to give your characters the best names and make them more real and memorable for your audience.

What To Consider When Giving Your Characters Names

Time frame: In creating the right world for your story or book, the appropriate names are important. Mildred was a popular girl’s name in the 1920s, but you won’t find many parents giving that name to their daughters today. Tybalt is a great name for a medieval knight, while Zyla is more suited for a warrior living on Mars in the future.

Age: Some names seem more suited to older characters, while others feel more modern and better fit a young character. Aunt Edna will seem older than Aunt Susie. And as we mentioned earlier, keep in mind the names that would have been popular when your character was born.

Personality: Is your character no-nonsense with a dry sense of humor? A simple, short name might fit best. If your character is elaborate or showy, a more intricate name will help reinforce this trait. For instance, what kind of character does the name Digby Beaumont call to mind? Complete a character study for each of your characters to really know their personalities before you name them.

Parents: If your character’s parents play a vital role in the story (even if they are absent, like Harry Potter’s parents, James and Lily), think about what they would name their child, and what that choice might mean. Assuming your character is using the name their parents gave them, this could be a fun and creative way to come up with the perfect name!

Genre: In fiction, each genre has its own unique rules. If you’re writing science fiction or fantasy that features a unique jargon, you’ll want to reflect that element in your characters’ names. For a contemporary romance, you’d pick names that are more likely to sound like people your reader could be friends with.

Meaning: When you’re having trouble coming up with a name, think about the character’s chief qualities. Then choose a name that has that meaning. For instance, Kella is a name of Irish origin that means “warrior,” while Jamal is Arabic for handsome. You could also choose a name that embodies something your character would find significant.

Where To Find Character Names

Baby name books. Rather than trying to think up names off the top of your head, use a baby name book, which offers you a great resource and starting point. It will put hundreds of names at your fingertips, along with their meanings and origins.

Google. Want to know the most popular names in a given year, or to search for names by their histories and meanings? A quick Internet search will gather all that information for you in seconds! Random name generators are always fun to try too.

Movies and TV shows. Still can’t settle on the perfect character name? Consider giving a nod to one you’ve loved in another medium! Think back to characters who stand out from movies, TV, or plays.

Cemeteries. This may seem a bit morbid, but consider browsing old graves for characters’ names—especially if you’re writing a historical piece and need a name that’s accurate for a specific time period.

Places you’ve visited. The names of towns or landmarks can make great names for characters! If there’s a particular place that’s important to your character’s backstory, this is an angle to consider. Your wealthy entrepreneur who grew up in New York City might fittingly be named Madison.

Day-to-day life. Writers are expert eavesdroppers—when you’re people watching or when you happen to overhear a conversation, make note of the names you hear. You may come across a gem to save for later!

Once you’ve decided on a name for your character, give it a test drive. Then, after you’ve written a few scenes, go back and read your story to see if the name works. Does it suit the character? Are you envisioning someone who looks as you hoped? If yes, yay! Keep writing! But if your character’s appearance or actions don’t seem to mesh with the name you’ve chosen, maybe you want to consider another name. After all, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s was named Connie Gustafson in the first drafts!

Question: What’s the best character name you’ve ever read?

6 Creative Ways to Name Your Fictional Characters…by Andre Cruz

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6 Creative Ways to Name Your Fictional Characters…by Andre Cruz

Thank you, guest blogger Andre Cruz, for the terrific ideas in this article, first published on The Write Life.

Novelists: 6 Creative Ways to Name Your Fictional Characters -- You Don't Have To Pull From A Hat

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

Are you a fan of symbolism? If so, then try this one. Write down your story’s themes and then head to a name generator website or baby name site to search for names related to those themes.

Funnily enough, I have found that the name Andre shows up under themes like manlystrong 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.

fictional characters

5. Use a name translator

Yep, there is such a thing. And here you thought number one was too easy!

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.]

Andre Cruz is a science fiction and fantasy author who loves to share creating writing advice on his blog The Word. Follow it at www.andrecruz.net to get great creative writing advice and book recommendations…. .

The Word | @AndreCruzWrites