Where to Find Character Names

Posted February 4, 2015 by Briana in characters / 4 Comments

Photo Credit: Benjamin Staudinger on Flickr

One of the most difficult aspects of writing is coming up with character names. This process doesn’t seem like it would be tough, but it is.

Where can you find original names? How do you keep them from sounding fake? And if you’re using the names of real people, how can you do that without offending anyone?

I’ve tackled those questions in my own writing life, and I want to help you simplify the character-naming process.

With that in mind, here are some sources I like for finding character names:

  • Baby name books and websites. When I first started writing, I used this method for most of my character names. You can find baby name books in thrift stores like Goodwill for less than a dollar in most cases, or you can visit any of these three websites.
  • People I know. Be careful when using this technique. You don’t want to take the exact name of someone you know. I like to mix and match, taking one first name with a different last name.
  • Famous figures in history/literature. Again, you should be careful not to use exact names here. One of my favorite name combinations is Dorian Jay; Dorian from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY and Jay from THE GREAT GATSBY.
  • Movie/television credits. I watch a lot of movies, so this is my current favorite method for finding character names. Take one first name and mix with one last name. Since the names belong to real people, you don’t have to worry too much about them sounding made-up.
  • A character name generator. These two are my favorites. The first one even allows you to generate different types of names, such as fairy, hippie, and fantasy names.

Character names are one of the smallest details of your writing, but also one of the most important. Armed with these tips, I hope you’ll have a much easier time picking names for all your fictional pawns.

What do you think? How do you come up with character names?

Tweet tweet:

Blogger @brianawrites shares her tips for coming up with character names. (Click to tweet)

Leave a Reply

4 responses to “Where to Find Character Names

  1. I’ve tried many ‘finding name systems’ over the years. finally, I asked how can I better name my characters? so…now, I write for a bit on a character with any name, knowing I’m likely to change it. Then, I read the story several times until it ‘pops’ in my head. I know, very scientific. Though obviously the stealing from famous names in history has its merits (Ray *holden*)

  2. Briana Morgan

    I can see how deliberate you are about character names in your work. I loved the names in ELLA, and I can tell you spent a lot of time thinking about them. 🙂

  3. I worked really hard to get ‘the’ names for the characters. some of them (Mr. Brown, Marcus, and a few others) had been in previous novels and I actually changed the name. In Mr. Brown’s case – he’d been a character for some 15 years and still I changed it.