Sometimes naming a character can be tough, especially when it comes to naming your main character. A character’s name needs to fit the character’s personality, the century and decade they were born in, their social background, country of origin and it also needs to be interesting. For example, the character James Bond wouldn’t suit the name Tom Farm, ‘My name’s Tom, Tom Farm.’ Nope, that doesn’t work for me.
So what do you do to find a fitting name? This article titled ‘The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters’ explains how to make sure the name fits a character, but how do you find the names in the first place? Well, I have six ways that I find names for my characters, and this is what I will be talking to you about today.
1. Baby Name Websites
This is normally my first stop. I like to find names that fit a person’s age, so if my character is in their 30s, I search the term, ‘1980s baby names’. This then takes me to baby naming websites, such as ssa.gov and baby2see.com, where you can see a list of the most popular baby names of that decade. While on the websites, I scroll through the list of all the names and pick a name that sounds (I like to imagine my character and say the name aloud) right for my character.
2. Shopping Receipts
Sometimes when you go to a shop and get a receipt for a purchase, you will find the name of the cashier on the receipt, so I like to check the name to see if it’s an interesting or unusual name.
3. Find Variants of a Popular Name
Every name has a history behind it, and this is what I love to find out because not only can you find the history, which can tell you if the name would be fitting for a character, but you can also find different variations of the name. For example, if you search for the name ‘Helen’, you will find other names such as Elena, Alena and Lena. Behindthename.com is an example of a website that tells you the history behind a name.
4. Tweak or Merge Existing Names
You’ll be surprised by how changing a letter or two in a name can change it completely. You can also merge two generic names together to create something new.
5. Use a Name Generator
I have only used a name generator (you can find loads online) for the names of fantasy characters, but they have been very useful, especially if you want a name that is magical and has a meaning behind it.
6. Use Real Life People
Now, you do have to be very careful with this, especially if you use the names of people in your inner circle. It would be better to choose a name of a person you met briefly and never saw again rather than someone you know, unless that person is happy for you to use their name. I would also get them to sign a contract, so they can’t sue you at a later date. Yes, I watch Judge Rinder lol.
So, that’s how I find names for my characters, I then normally spend ages making sure I’ve selected the best name for my character. Naming a character can be stressful, but don’t forget that this can also be fun, so before you pull out all of your hair, you should try my suggestions and see if any of them help.
How do you choose names for your characters? Please feel free to comment below with your answers.
Keep writing, folks!