Friday, December 28, 2012

What's in a name?

Posted by: Unknown
I have a problem with naming my characters. Some people swear they can't start writing a story until they've picked out the perfect names for the leads. My characters usually go through two or three different names apiece.

Part of this is because I don't plot extensively before beginning to write and as the character develops during the course of the story, my initial vision is sometimes no longer entirely accurate by the time I reach the end. Part of it is that when I add secondary characters into the mix it can throw the name balance off. You know, too many G names or too many that end with a -y. Sometimes the name combo starts to grate, especially if it's too matchy in the first place.

I have to change a character name in my current story because our new neighbor has a 7 year old daughter with the same (unusual) name and now every time I see it, I think of her. It's stressful and it shouldn't be. I'd like to find a name book created for authors that instead of meanings/origins has character traits associated with different names. I've seen short lists like that.

I have started to take note of names that I think are interesting as I come across them. The programs at holiday concerts are goldmines.

How do you pick out your names? And are there any that you're sick to death of seeing?

Eleri Stone


  1. I usually try to think of a name I like, and then I just stick with it. I like to choose names based on my favorite people - friends, celebrities, etc. :)

  2. I need to start keeping a list. I'm bad with names. If my husband hadn't put his foot down, our oldest child would be named "Willow".

  3. I name my characters before I start writing, and I rarely change the name after (I did recently change a spelling, however.) I keep a Word doc of names I like, and whenever I hear one or think up one, I jot it down on that list. Makes naming side characters especially helpful.

    One tactic I use is to take an ordinary name and change one letter at a time until I find something useful. also has some good name generators--I use them for ideas when I'm in a pickle.

    1. Thanks, Charlie! Definitely checking out seventhsanctum. I'm actually working on a fantasy now. The hero's name is Benim which I liked until I realized it looked like Denim and now I have to change it. I do want to keep it some variation of Ben, maybe I'll just play with the letters a bit more:)

  4. I have a baby name book called "Beyond Jennifer and Jason" that has lists of names sorted by associated character traits. I also love my Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, which sorts by culture, useful in writing fantasy.

    For last names, I usually go to an old white pages phonebook I saved. Everything I come up with off the top of my head tends to be very English and boring.

  5. There is a character naming book! I have to go find that. The phone book is a great idea too.


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