Naming your characters, my favorite step in the writing process!
Many writers you’ll find have a bit of a naming obsession. (Raises hand)
I’ve been guilty of having several baby name apps on my phone since I was in middle school. Gotta keep track of my current favorites and trends somehow! Seriously, one of the most exciting days of the year for me is when the name census comes out. I may have a problem.
However, this problem can help YOU with tips on how to select just the right name for your character!
1.Troll the baby name sites
There are a multitude of helpful naming sites (nameberry, babynames.com, babynamewizard to name a few) and they all have search engines and have results that give you popularity statistics, meaning, origin, and so much more! Use these to your advantage, keep a running list of names you like, and names you love to hate for your villains.
2. Use Translators!
The best tip I can give you for exotic or fantasy sounding names is to use translators. Type in some trait your character has, translate it into other languages, mash some syllables together, and presto, a brand new name! I personally recommend latin, if it’s good enough for JK Rowling it’s good enough for me.
3. Look up what was popular, when
Remember that census I mention? Turns out there’s name data from countries all over the world going back hundreds of years! (Heavy breathing)
My go to for more normal names is to look through THE ENTIRE list of popular names from whatever year by story takes place, and see which ones jump out at me and just feel right for that character.Have a popular character? Go for a name closer to the top. Have a weirder outcast character? Start looking at #150. Be aware that different names have different connotations at different times.
4. Origin Story
As much as we writers like giving characters names that fit their personalities, also consider the personality of the person who named them. Someone’s name tells a story… of what their parents like. A character who hates or changes their name really says a lot about them. My character Cordelia was originally named Charity Grace by her parents (ew) and cast it off along with her sexual inhibitions (woo!). This tells my readers that she comes from a family that’s all about women being delicate, following the natural order, and God. Her name is her identity so this change marks a turning point in her life that a reader can relate to.
When it comes down to it, go with your gut and don’t settle for less than perfection. If the name doesn’t feel quite right, that nagging feeling will never go away. The perfect name is out there, waiting for you to find it 🙂