Naming Characters

Sometimes the hardest part of starting a new WIP is just figuring out what to name the characters. Should the name have meaning? Should the name be common or more exotic? What spelling should it use? All are questions that have to be answered in the course of choosing names for characters. Here are a few ways to find names for your characters.

Sometimes all I have to do to name a character is think for a minute and the right name will pop into my head. I have to be careful with this method, though, because generally the first names I think of belong to people I know. I don't like naming characters after certain people because, in my experience, those characters then tend to change to reflect the real-life person in looks and/or personality.

Ask around
I use this one most commonly when I don't have internet access and I need a name fast. One good way to get names is to just ask friends. This will give you a wider pool to work with than your own memory without as much taint of previous experience.

The internet is a great resource for names. I have a friend that uses a census for names. Personally, I prefer baby name websites. Many of them will allow you to sort by first letter, meaning, origin, and gender. This one is my personal favorite. In addition to a variety of sorting methods, they also have lists of the most popular baby names for each year going all the way back to 1880. For last names, I use this website. Possibilities are categorized by first letter or origin. I find names by going to my favorite site and just scanning the lists until I find one that jumps out at me. Sometimes I pick based on meaning, but it's more about what sounds good in my head. 

Keep a List
If you hear a name that you want to use, make a note of it. I have a friend that keeps a running list of first and last names that she hears the sound good for future stories. If you know the people whose names are on the list, however, you may run the same risk as when you're thinking of names.

Phone books
If you have a few of these unwieldy things laying around the house, it might be a good idea to flip through them and see if anything jumps out. They're not quite as convenient as the Internet in terms of searching, but if you have one that's just gathering dust you can at least put it to good use. They are convenient in that you have one source for both first and last names.

How do you pick character names?


Sarah said…
I tend to name for meaning. Like, for example, the main character of Sanctum is named Lela, and her name is a derivative of "loyal".

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