Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Naming Part 1: Where to Start

My favorite part about planning a new story idea isn't necessarily pulling together the plot and outline (mainly because I make most of that up as I go and don't usually flesh out an outline). For me the excitement is in developing the characters, from their physical appearances and characteristics to background story and future actions. For the next few blog posts, I'm going to share with you how I go through the process of naming my characters.

For some people, like me, this comes fairly naturally. I can spend hours picking out a specific name for a character yet have fun doing it. Others can just pick any name they want and be fine with it - which is totally okay, too. However, maybe some of you struggle with figuring out the perfect name, or maybe you want to learn how to flesh out your development process. Here's how I begin:

First and foremost - baby naming sources. Like candy in the middle of a salt factory. Baby naming sources can be in the form of books, from specific baby books to character naming books (I own The Writer's Digest Character Naming Sourcebook 2nd Edition). However, for a quick search, and what I use mostly, some websites to try out are and (heads up: different sites can contain different origins and meanings. Occasionally you may have to try a few different sources to make sure you have the most accurate). Not only is there a nearly unlimited resource of baby names on these sites, but you can also refine your search for specific gender, origin, and meaning. Do you have an strong-willed Irishman as your protagonist? Perhaps you should call him Liam.

If you want to try a different route other than baby name sources, one idea is to simply compile a list of first, middle, and last names of your family, friends, and acquaintances. You might have a best friend named Emily Jane Gould, a cousin named Hannah Rae Devore, and a co-worker named Audrey Monroe. Mix it together, and perhaps you like Audrey Rae Gould.

Another fun way is to pop in your favorite movie or TV show and take a look at the credits; what are your favorite names on that list? This is also a great resource to use if you want creative names. C'mon, we've all seen those names roll by and do a double take - they're pretty crazy awesome.

The "easy" way out is to look up a name generator site. I'm not condemning this method at all (sometimes I will use it for surname ideas), but for me personally, it takes the fun out of the process.

>>Next week in part 2 we'll flesh this out and discuss how to organize your compiled names.<<

How do you compile a list of favorite character names?

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