Naming Your Characters Part 1

Name tag

Names Are Important

Just think if Frodo Baggins had been named Harry Bonaparte. You would probably have a different impression about the hobbit. A name paints a picture of who your character is and is not.

The name Drake Killdare conjures up a certain image, doesn’t it? Choosing a name that fits your character is an important part of your writing process. Because names like faces, leave lasting impressions.

Full Packages

Now, I’ve had a few of my characters show up on the doorstep of my imagination, carrying full packages. They came with names, job titles, backgrounds, relationships, the full shebang. My plot may have been Swiss Cheese but boy, my characters were wrapped in nice little bundles.

But what do you if your characters are blank slates, nameless faces, nobodies waiting for an identity? I had this problem with one of my works in progress, A Servant and Two Masters. My characters were blank canvases in desperate need of names. So, I tried a naming process I like to call, the off the top of my head technique.

Off The Top Of Your Head

No, I didn’t say I’m off my rocker. Allow me to explain. I want you to take a moment to consider who your character is, his or her personality, and impact in the world you’ve created. Then give them the first name that pops into your head.

Yep, that’s how it works.

Truth be told, it works sometimes. I was successful in naming a few of my characters this way. They were mostly minor characters, though.

If this method doesn’t get your creative juices following, you can always try the people you know.

Using People You Know

There are lots of people you know who have beautiful, average, short, or long names, nicknames, you name it. You have loads of material to work with. Try using  someone’s name and change a few letters around to make it right for your character.

Or make up a name by combining two other names. And if you’re not feeling adventurous, why not give your character an average name like Joe or Sue?

That brings me to another method, research.

Meaning Of Names

If you Google the meaning of names or baby names, you’ll get a gaggle of results and more names than you know what to do with.

I like to use one website in particular:

I prefer this resource because they have a feature that lets you search names by gender, region, or origin. Let’s say you need a Celtic name for one of your characters. This website has a full list of Celtic names ranging from A to Z. Really, you can look up a name from any part of the globe.

There are also name generators but to be honest, I’m not a fan of those. They tend to generate names that I don’t like or wouldn’t use in my books. So, I don’t bother with them.

Naming your characters can take some thoughtful consideration but it’s worth the time and effort in the long run. The last thing you want to do is give your character a name that doesn’t fit who they are.

Next up, Naming Your Characters Part 2 – otherwise titled: Don’t argue with the people who live in your head.

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