N is for Names

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We have such a huge varieties of characters, across so many genres, that naming can sometimes be an issue – particularly as you don’t want to repeat yourself and get all tangled up in your head.

When it comes to naming characters, they should really be memorable and (hopefully) unique to the book (or script) they come from. ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’, ‘Bilbo Baggins’, all these names are easily recognisable. Not only for the individual character but also for the stories they are from.

As well as memorable, character names must fit with the setting they are from – after all, there weren’t many Skywalkers around during the Victorian times. Unless of course you’re writing steampunk.

With choosing names, we all have a tendency to fixate on certain things. I (Loz) tend to fixate on names that are vowel heavy, when choosing female names, and S’s when choosing names for men. Though, I am trying to break myself of both habits.

Whereas, I (Michelle) tend to look at name meanings or browse Celtic and Gaelic names. I once had a character that arrived in my head with a single name. I didn’t know whether it was his first name or surname. In the end, it was actually his middle name but he used it as his first name, just to confuse me.

What we have found, with our writing, is that some characters are easy to name or their names pop into our heads upon creation of said character. But then you get the difficult sods. The ones who have you browsing baby naming sites until you find something that makes him/her perk up and agree that it fits them. And that’s all that matters really, if the name is a good fit for your character (and sometimes, you may find that your initial choice may change the more you get to know your character).

It’s also funny to see people who know you’re terminally single react to you browsing baby names 😉

How do you choose your character names?

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4 thoughts on “N is for Names

  1. I keep three baby name books handy as well as Writer’s Digest “Character Naming Sourcebook” on hand. The number of times I’ve been asked ‘when’s the new addition due,’ I can only smile – and wish I had a dime for every time.

  2. My novel is a dark Medieval fantasy (it is sat awaiting the next edit lol) but i used google translate to create names I took characteristics of characters or even rough job titles then tried different languages then mixed and matched them

  3. I love choosing names for characters (apart from those pesky ones who refuse to settle with one). I have a baby name book that I’ve had for about 17 years – and it only cost 50p. Bargain! I also use baby name websites and random name generators can be fun too.

  4. I’m a longtime name nerd, and have used a lot of different sources to find names. Usually I give the uncommon or less popular names to my main characters, and save the more common or popular names for secondary or minor characters. A lot of my books are set outside of the familiar North American/British setting, and I try to find lesser-used or less popular names in those languages as well. A few months ago, I found an awesome Russian-language names site, which specifies if a name is old, new, imported from a neighboring culture (like Scandinavian or German), or a traditional Slavic name. It’s been so helpful.

    Fewer things turn me off faster to a book, even if I’m just reading a synopsis, than seeing a predated naming trend. No, I won’t believe your character in an 18th century historical is named Kaitlyn. I won’t buy that the mother of a teen in a contemporary book is named Madison. I’ll roll my eyes if you name your college-aged character Kayden. It’s one thing to use a name that wasn’t so common or well-known but which still existed, like, say, an Amanda born in 1900 or a Brandon born in 1930. But don’t give your character a name that only was invented or exploded in popularity within the last decade, unless it’s a contemporary book and the character is a young child!

    Behind the Name is one of the best sources out there for legit etymology, and also has links to other legit sources. I also enjoy Name Nerds.

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