So what do you do when you want to find that perfect name for each of your characters?
A few years back my friend and author Anita Nolan pointed me to the The Social Security Office when she thought my character’s names were out dated. I change a couple of the names, but you know there are just times when you really feel the name you chose was exactly right for that character, so I kept the ones that spoke to me.
But the Social Security Office’s database is a great resource. They have a database of names with different search options. Here are the links:
You may need an ethnic name for one of your characters or you may want to consider the meaning of the name. You can get this job done on Baby Zone.
Sometimes it is fun to use Alliteration when coming up with a character name – like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit.
Or you may consider using a name that rhymes – like Amelia Bedelia. Both of these techniques will help you find a name for your character that stands out.
Or you could use a theme for your character names, like making a number of characters have bird names, like Finch, Robin, Jay, Peewee, Magpie. Or maybe some of your characters could be named after a Month – January, May, June, April or after flowers - Petunia, Rose, Sweetpea.
The Bible is a good place to look for old names.
The credits that show up at the end of a movie, you know the names of the people who work on the movie is a good places to find name. The news is also great. You can find lots of unusal names there. Heck, you can open up the phone book to come up with a last name, too. I would suggest writing down names when you hear one that is interesting. One of my characters is named after a telemarketer who called me – just loved her name. Plus, everyone who knows me, knows their first name or last name could end up in something I am writing.
To differentiate and help the reader identify each character, you should consider the amount of syllables in each name and the letter they start with.
Here is a mistake I made with one of my characters. My character’s name was Brianna, but when her friends were talking to her they called her Bree, but the adults refered to her as Brianna. Actually, that is probably the way it would be in real life, but it was confusing to the reader. Now she is just Bree.
Last month Brian Klems at Writer’s Digest wrote a good article titled, The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters. You may have seen it, but I thought I should point it out just in case you missed it. The original source was author and Mystery Writer Elizabeth Sims.
If you are interested in delving further into this subject, Anita Nolan will be speaking on this subject at the Pearl S Buck House in Pennsylvania this coming spring. Don’t worry, I will remind you when I get a date from Anita.
The cute alligator at the top is by illustrator Sarah Dillard. Do you have a name for him? What type of things do you do to come up with character names?