Choosing your character name

Choosing a character name isn’t as easy as you think. There are so many things to consider. At this year’s conference I attended a workshop by Kelly Hunter. She raised some great points about choosing your characters’ names, saying you need to consider:Image result for naming your character

  • gender
  • ethnicity
  • age
  • virtues
  • character traits
  • birthplace
  • occupation
  • socio-economic status
  • honorifics that convey status

Of course, you also can’t choose characters who have names starting with the same letter. It gets confusing for the reader when you do this. Don’t believe me? Read the excellent (middle grade?) trilogy “The Erth Dragons” by Chris D’Lacey. The dragons’ names all start with the same letter. I had to read the start 3 times to get my head around the dragons (frustratingly my Barbarian who owned the book didn’t seem to have that problem).

With all these things to consider, it can be tough to find exactly the right name sometimes. Luckily for writers, there are resources out there to help with that. Recently I’ve been recommended two, and after playing with them both I’m happy to recommend them.

The first is at Reedsy’s Character Name Generator. From the web page:

1,000,000+ good character names to inspire you. Kickstart your story with this random character name generator. Sort using filters such as language, gender, and fantasy — and even discover the meanings of your favorites. Each name is computer-generated and we encourage you to do further research on naming traditions and meanings for your exact region.

The second is Behind the Name. This site provides the etymology and history of first names and lets you search mostly by country of origin, but also has a few other categories, such as Biblical and mythological.





9 comments on “Choosing your character name

  1. True, it isn’t easy to come up with appropriate names, especially in fantasy, where people do have a tendency to make up names out of their heads or create something unpronounceable – or, as you say, have names that all start with the same letter. I think about my names – background, ethnicity and sometimes just because I like them. In my novel, Wolfborn, I had a character whose name jarred with the rest because I liked it, and another character with a soppy name to go with her personality. Here is the URL of a post I wrote about it.

    J.K Rowling has a Dickens habit in her naming, don’t you think?

    Thanks for the two links! There are quite a few name generators on line, but I haven’t seen these two before.

    • Totally agree, some fantasy names are so hard to pronounce. I find it frustrating – especially when the whole cast have tricky names. I always wonder if the author thinks readers will be able to pronounce them because the author knows how to say it?

  2. Good links to name generators. I too hate when all names start with the same letter. I thought that was not recommended? Oh those kids. They even hear sounds we don’t!

  3. Ha, I had no idea there is a “science” behind picking names for your characters. I usually do it intuitively. I have an idea about my protagonists: what they look like, what their personalities are, and that’s how I decide they must be called Nicole or Jeremy 😉
    I do agree that the names contribute greatly to how those people are perceived.

    • I’d been doing it intuitively as well, but I’m thinking I need to spend a little more time thinking about the names.

  4. There are a bunch of name generators online. I like to use them when naming ancillary characters. My main characters’ names tend to me somehow. (Usually through lots of playing with letters.) The fantasy ones are fun, especially when you can designate what sort of name (like a fantasy creature or such).

    • The books I wrote in my teens were all fantasy. I used to play with letters as well. I don’t think I have any of those stories anymore =( (pre-computer days – and there’s my age showing *grin*).

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