My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Character Names

I’m at that stage in novel planning where I’m trying to find the “perfect” names for my characters.

As always, it’s a painful process. 😛

I’m very picky on my character’s names–they have to feel right and mean something, and at the same time, not be ridiculously hard to pronounce (thanks to choosing different cultures to set my stories in). I always come up with large lists first, of dozens upon dozens of names. That way, if I need to go back and find a name for some obscure character, there’s a list already available. But choosing which names to give the important characters is incredibly difficult.

Sometimes, the first name I find, it sticks. For example, my male MC in my last book, Ryuji–the moment I saw the name and its meaning, it clicked. However, my MC’s name was a little harder to find. I originally had one name, then discovered it wasn’t one that was used at all really, except after death (and those names were generally reserved for royalty). But then I found Naomi and saw that it was both a Japanese and Western name, which is perfect for my Japanese-American character.

This new novel however, is proving to be a little more challenging. I found a few names that might be “the one” for my MC and it’s hard to decide. I have a feeling I’ll probably start using one name and then switch during the course of the book to see which one works better. I’ve done that before too.

So, how do you go about creating names? Are you as picky and detailed about it as I am or do you wait for the name to just come to you?


Comments on: "Character Names" (14)

  1. I am just as picky if not moreso. In my last novel, I used symbols (#$&) in place of minor character names because I was tired of searching. From that, I got the name Astari (asterisk) which stuck. I modified a few real names to get other names I wanted (Nevira from names like Severina) just to flounder again when it came to naming places.

    I use Behind the Name a lot because it has such a great selection of both meanings and origins. I make lists like you do, but frequently find it lacks the names I’m looking for. Very rarely will the name come to me, but I usually know it when I hear it.

    On the bright side, you still have 12 days to find names before NaNoWriMo starts!

  2. I assign my characters a holder name till I find one I love. If you read a very new story of mine, my characters will be bob abd bobette…

  3. I usually pick a name really fast. My characters seem to come with names, often. It’s not always the right name, and it bothers me like an itch until I find one that fits better; for example, my MC’s sister for my NaNo was originally Penny. My clue that it wasn’t right was that I could never remember it, haha. Now it’s Alice… which is better, but still not quite right… hmmmm

  4. It’s so hard to think up names for my upcoming NaNo novel, especially because it’s a fantasy and I don’t want the names to be normal. I’ve been combining names that mean certain things to make super names… it’s hard to make names that roll off the tongue, but when they do it’s amazing!

  5. I cheat. I’ve used family names (ancestors that have long passed, by the way). But for the most part I don’t have a problem with names. I just pay attention. Read the obituary, find names at work (mainly different last names), it’s a fun process for me.

    What I don’t do is make up strange names. Probably why I don’t like reading fantasy – I can’t pronounce most of the names. My books may be paranormal, but I want them to be real, thus real names.

    • Even though I’m writing fantasy this year for NaNo, the cultures are based on the real world, so I’m using real names. I had a hard enough time coming up with the names of the countries, LOL.

  6. I tend to go through lists of names too until I find one that sounds right or feels right. But, I’ve changed names of main characters before, too… I’ve also heard that we shouldn’t get too attached to the names of our characters anyway, since they could be changed by an editor before publication. Still, the name has to mean something and match the character’s personality. On a rare occasion, the name will just come to me, but naming is such a tricky area!

  7. For some characters, the names come to me easily — and for others, it’s like pulling teeth. I tend to have the beginning letter and a certain feel I want the name to have. Then I peruse several baby name sites for a potential list, and then narrow it down to a name through elimination. 🙂

  8. Dara — I came back for a second look at this blog, and thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if you’d be interested in joining my writing blog directory. It’s free advertising, and while we like to do an interview of the author and review of the blog, it’s completely optional. ^^ If you’re interested, hit me back at sskid2000 AT hotmail DOT com, or respond somewhere directly at the website:

  9. I’m very picky as well, especially for MC. Sometimes I try names out to see if I like them.

  10. I don’t know if I’m picky but the name does need to feel right. That said, it could change if needed. 🙂 I like how you put so much thought into yours!

  11. I think about the character for a bit and then think about a fitting name based on the person’s qualities. Rarely, I may change a name when I’m way into the book.

  12. Names are really important to me because I hate my own name. My novel is set in the South across a couple of generations, so I’m on always on the lookout for quirky, offbeat names that strike. If I put myself back in my head as a kid in Georgia, and the name strikes a chord, I save it. It’s amazing how once your antenna is tuned in, you hear every single one. On the other hand, one of my peripheral characters got his name from the side of a bus.

    Loving your blog.

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