How to Come Up with Character Names
Naming your characters, especially your protagonist has a significant, final feel. You want to make sure you pick a name that is easy to pronounce, doesn’t conflict with other character names within the same story, makes sense for the time period and age of your character, and consider picking a name significant to your character’s role in the story or characteristics. You can use baby name books, character name generators, and other tools to help you find a name that fits. Google is your friend when it comes to naming characters!
What to Consider When Deciding on a Name
Maybe you’re stuck between two character names (or a list of 30). If you’ve already narrowed down your search to a few options, you’ll want to run through this list of do’s and don’ts to avoid making a character naming faux pas.
Character Naming Do’s
- Pick a name logical for your story’s era
- Pick a name to match your character’s behavior
- Avoid having multiple characters whose names start with the same letter
- Add flavor and backstory with a prefix or suffix
Character Naming Don’ts
- Try not to use names already associated with famous individuals (let your character shine)
- Avoid using names of people you know in real life
- Don’t ignore age when picking a name
Where to Find Character Name Inspiration
Baby Name Books
Baby name books and baby name websites are a goldmine of character names. You can find a number of them just by typing ‘baby names’ into Google. Most give the option to sort by male, female, and gender-neutral names. You’ll be able to see variations in spelling, pronunciation, and origin. Plus, most sites will break down the meaning or meanings associated with the name and any historical or cultural significance the name has.
A few baby name sites to check out include:
My Go-To Character Naming Resources
Social Security Administration
Behind the Name (Surnames)
Last names and me, we don’t get along. I’ll often stumble upon a point when I need a last name for my character and throw in ‘Adams’ or ‘Smith’ as placeholders because the thought of tracking down a suitable surname seems like the biggest hassle ever. Behind the Names’ surname subdomain makes it easy to access lists of surnames and their meanings and history.
Surnames are tricky because not only do you need them to match your chosen first name, you also need them to make geographical and historical sense. Where is your character from and what is their family lineage? A last name can tell a lot about a character so you want to make sure it fits.
Behind the Name also has its main site used for first names which is another useful asset to have in your author toolkit.
Don’t see your favorite, go-to resource? Reach out to me using my contact form to have yours included. Happy character naming!