N is for Naming Characters #AtoZChallenge

Posted April 16, 2019 in Blog Fests & Hops, Creative Writing / 4 Comments

The Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues today. Throughout April I’m posting about my life as a writer, including my inspirations, frustrations and celebrations.

I love the process of naming characters. I probably take it far too seriously than I should, as I spend a lot of time thinking up interesting names.

Here are some of the criteria I use when considering character names:

  • Has an interesting meaning or association, preferably not too obvious.
  • Fits with my internal image of the character.
  • Works well in context (i.e realistic for the time period and setting).
  • Looks aesthetically pleasing when written down.
  • Sounds nice when spoken and is easy to pronounce.
  • Works well with the other characters’ names and is distinct from them (i.e not Anna, Anya, Abi and Alix!)
  • Could be shortened to a nickname if needed.
  • Not an overused name in this genre.

I’m always on the look out for new names to add to my spreadsheet! I find them in books, articles, TV shows, online comment forms and everyday conversation. I used to work in a pharmacy and I now work in a school; both are excellent places to discover unusual names.

I also search online for names with particular meanings or themes. I like to name characters after animals, stars, flowers and figures from history or mythology.

Here are some of my favourite online name databases:

Sometimes I use baby name books, but you have to be careful about reading those in public or it results in awkward questions!

Before you go…

Writers-where do you get your inspiration for character names?

Readers-what are your favourite names? Is there an interesting story behind your own name?

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4 responses to “N is for Naming Characters #AtoZChallenge

  1. I use Behind the Name a lot, and also have several Russian-language name sites, a Belarusian-language name site, and other name sites in other languages. In the past, I used Unusual, Unique, and Creative Names a lot, but don’t go there very often anymore. My personal style tends towards classical eccentric and classical unusual (e.g., Octavia, Felix, Justine, Leopold, Eulalia, Wolfram). I tend to use more common, popular, or trendy names on secondary characters these days. There’s nothing wrong with common names, but characters with less common names tend to be more memorable. I also like both forename and surname to have a symbolic meaning to the character, if possible.

    My secondary blog is devoted to onomastics, mostly featuring less-common names, from a wide variety of languages.

  2. Interesting post! Good to know those name databases, I will click the links.
    My name, beside being French, is usually for boy, andwritten with a C: Frédéric. I love my name because we are not a lot of girls named Frédérique 😉

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