Tips and unique methods for naming characters.
Many people talk about how they struggle naming characters and how difficult it is.
Honestly, it’s my favorite part.
If you’ve read any of my writing, you probably noticed I love using unique names. I’ve tried to tone that down, but it pains me to just use something on the “most common names” list. If I have the opportunity to go crazy, I will.
Here are the resources I turn to for naming characters.
Behind The Name is a website I use often. Not all names are on there, but it has a hefty variety. And it’s not so much a “baby name” website as a “name meaning” website, so your friends are less likely to freak out if you leave the page open.
We’ve all been there.
They also give you the meanings, pronunciations, different spellings, origin, and so on. Very informative. There are definitely times I pick a name solely for the meaning.
Last names are hard. Luckily, Behind The Name has a site expansion called Behind the Surname which is equally as helpful. But that’s not usually where I get last names.
I think now is a good time for me to mention that I have a hard time using a name if I know someone with that name, including last names. First of all, I’ll be thinking about that person every time I write (which is distracting). Secondly, I don’t want any ideas floating around that I’m writing about said person.
If I’m writing about you, it’s not going to be that obvious. (Suddenly, I can sense all my friends and family thinking, “what if that one character she wrote really WAS me?” Guess you’ll never know, friends. Muahaha.)
My favorite way to find last names is, oddly enough, famous people. But not so famous you’d immediately recognize the name. I like to listen to the football players list off their names at the beginnings of games. Obviously, I’m not going to pick Manning or Brady, but there are some good ones.
Making a Name
Sometimes, I just pick a name I like that I think fits the character. Other times I will go more in depth and find a name where the meaning is relevant to the character. And on special occasions, I’ve even made up names.
The Avela Trilogy is a prime example of my name concoctions. While some of the dragons have names taken from mythology, a movie character, a real life star in space, and words mushed together, most of them have purely made up names.
Stellast, Pyrin, and Luminox. I landed on those names for the three main dragons and wouldn’t change them for the world. They just…fit. Go Read The Books and meet them!
How do I do it? My biggest secret weapon is…a table of scientific suffixes and prefixes!
You think I’m joking. :]
…I’m serious. Look.
You definitely thought I was joking, didn’t you?
(I did not make them. Looking up the website, it doesn’t seem to exist anymore. I found a PDF to print clean copies since mine are all marked up, but nowhere to point you to give credit.)
When I started writing way back in junior high, I came up with the names of the dragons with these two sheets. Some have relevance to their elements. Some I just thought sounded pretty. I always made sure to look them up just in case I accidentally found an inappropriate word. I still have these sheets and still use them.
It’s so fun.
Growing into a Name
Once the character has a name, they seem to come to life. They either grow into it, or you can tell it just doesn’t fit. Sometimes I’ll place a name on a character while writing a scene, and every time it pops up, I stare at it in dislike.
The nice part? I’m the author and can change it.
Other times, I’ll just throw a name I’m not sure about on a character, and as I’m writing, they grow into it so much I can’t bear to change it.
Wanna know a secret?
Of course you do.
Flight is one of those names. You may recognize her as the main protagonist in the Avela Trilogy. I wasn’t sure about what I wanted her name to be, so I used that name in the meantime. Halfway in, it just felt wrong to change it.
This is where the fun begins. Besides making up names, themed names, in my opinion, are the most fun to play around with.
What I mean by themed names: groups of names that have something in common. Say you have a new colony of dragons who only go by weather names.
Thunder, Zephyr, Sunny, Blizzard, etc. You have a whole range of names you can pick from. Some can even get pretty fancy.
Final thoughts about character names. Have fun with it! It shouldn’t be the hardest part or the most boring. It’s exciting. It’s the name of someone you’ll be spending a lot of time with.
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