When writing a novel, choosing names that aren’t boring or cliche for your characters can be an extremely difficult task to overcome. This can be even more difficult on those who are writing fantasy. You want to create names that are original and sound somewhat exotic, but you don’t want to put apostrophes in all of them just to accomplish that goal. So how do you come up with good, memorable names? I have some good tips for you…
1. Read up on ancient texts. Read the texts of old, whether it be religious, fictional, or historical, there are thousands upon thousands of names waiting to be used in your story. Trust me when I say that the Bible is a great tool to use. It is full of genealogies listing dozens– sometimes hundreds– of names.
2. Name generators. You can find these on the internet. A quick Google search can bring up a dozen of these. Fantasy Name Generator (original name, eh?) lets you select what kind of creature for whom you are searching a name, along with the length you want it to be. Bonus: If you are a Scrivener user, you can go to “Tools”, “Writing Tools” and then you’ll find “Name Generator” on the bottom. This tool will allow you to choose everything from the gender of the name to the origin of the first and last name. This works better for those who are writing anything other than fantasy and sci-fi.
3. Life. I know, this is a cheat, but it works! Find a name– it can be as simple or as complicated as you want, though I suggest the former) and change the spelling a little bit. Be sure to keep the general pronunciation of the name the same, so it can be easy for your reader. For example, I took the name “Jason” and simply changed the o to an e, which resulted in “Jasen”. While this looks a little more exotic, the pronunciation of the name doesn’t change.
Do you have methods to create original character names? If so, share them below!
8 thoughts on “On Character Names”
Yep. I work part-time at an after-school childcare program – the enrolment list is a great place to find, er, ‘unique’ names.
Ha! That is a really interesting source. What is the strangest name you have come across?
Top three strangest at the moment are Fynn (pronounced Fin), Khye (Ky), and Shaelii (Shaylee).
The name Khye always makes me grimace because it’s pronounced exactly the same as the Maori word ‘kai’, which means ‘food’. Would you name your kid ‘food’? Didn’t think so.
I love giving my characters names with meanings mostly because I love looking up name meanings haha. I also use name generators, both are very helpful.
I am assuming that the names you choose go with the characteristics of your characters? 🙂
Yes 🙂 the names go with their characteristics
I also find that figuring out the perfect name can be tricky. Seriously, I have a thing for M’s. I’ve had to go through and rename at least four people because I have too many M’s. Also, in fantasy, I hate it when you can barely pronounce the name because it’s so ‘out there’. Scrivener also has a name generator that is awesome! You can pick which part of the world the name originates from.
At any rate, I now make a full list of all characters to I don’t have too many M’s. 🙂
I, too, face the challenge of choosing the same letter to start many characters’ names with. I think my weakness are the J’s. By the way, I love that MMSfG, the names, for the most part, are ones that a reader would have heard before while not making them so common that they take the reader out of the story.
I think I should start creating a character list sometime in the near future! It seems like it’d be extremely helpful.