Saturday, February 20, 2010

Character Names

This is one of my favorite parts of writing: naming characters in my stories and novels. I try to find names that go with the theme of the short story, or with the personality of that particular character.

In my Atlantis story I came up with sea/water names:

Baltic (named after the Baltic Sea)
Caspain (named after the Caspian Sea)
Marina (place where you store boats)

In my Mesopotomian Winter Solstice story I came up with old names from that region:
Tigris (named after a river in Mesopotomia)
Syria (named after a place in that region)
Basra (named after a place in that region)

In my current work in progress I tried for sci fi names and short and blunt pirate names:
Aries (named after a constellation)
Striker the space pirate (named for his ability to strike anytime/anywhere!)
Tiff the tough pirate girl (named after another word for a petty quarrel)

How do you come up with your character names? What is your favorite character name you've made up?


Lisa Rusczyk said...

Many times I'll use the first name that comes to mind just to keep going so I don't stall and not write. Later, after some thought, I'll use the "replace" function once I've thought out what I want the characters to be named. Also, I like using the names of people I know in my books.

Tiana Smith said...

I LOVE your names! So fitting, and yet unique. I usually go to look at character names. I search by meaning and by region, so I get names that suit the location of the book, but also the characters themselves. In my current WIP, my characters are named Cayla and Amos (meaning burden) in Hebrew.

Jess of All Trades said...

20000names . com!

It's the best site ever, even though it has obnoxious advertising (If your volume is on, don't be scared when a woman's voice suddenly blares offering some free coupon or other). I used to go to babynames, but I like the above site better. It just has tons and tons of stuff.

I'm like you; I go from regional, but since it's fantasy with me, I twist it just a little so it's less Latin or Real-World rooted.

Lindsey Duncan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsey Duncan said...

Most of the time, unless I'm writing contemporary or science fiction, I invent names ... though occasionally I'll use obscure real-world names or tweak them. I definitely choose by sight and feel over meaning, though occasionally I do write stories with the idea that the names should have a hidden reference and ...

... I'm one of those nuts that does naming languages, so I have a blast with making names that are highly appropriate (or ironic) in meaning - even though no one is ever going to know.

Twisting real-world names to give a short story an instant "X culture" feeling is something I do a lot, or simply creating something that's close to the language's structure / using a common element. See the names Rwynal, Rhadiath or Nydd, and you ought to thinking Welsh.

Tiff is an awesome name for a character. I had an RPG character once (barely played, alas; game died) named Chary, and her personality aligned somewhat with the word.

... wow, long post. Sorry.

(Reposted because I forgot to subscribe to follow-up comments and I wanna watch this one. *scuff*)

Unknown said...

I take popular names and change a letter, add a syllable, switch up the spelling. I love that part of the process too!

Aubrie said...


I've done that before and then used the replace function! I like your names, they make sense with your characters.

Tiana, thank you! I sometimes go to as well! I love Amos and that it means burden.

Jess, I've never tried 2,000, I'll have to look it up!

Lindsey, I love your lost post! You are so brave to make up your own names! I should do more of that.

Nisa, good idea to try experimenting with changes a letter or the spelling!

Mary Gray said...

For my book WiDo is publishing, I looked up Greek names online. I fell in love with the last name, Alexiou. It just looks so dang awesome on the screen. And it just rolls off the tip of your tongue. ;)

Striker--I think of Wil Striker on Star Trek. Love it. I always had a crush on him.

Unknown said...

I was almost named Marina! :) My mom changed her mind at the last minute.
And I have a Caspian in my WIP but he has a very small part.
Great minds think alike. :)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the names for my characters just come to me. Occasionally they will change in the middle of a story and I have to go back and fix it in the beginning.

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You have a small gift waiting for you there.

Racquel Henry said...

I actually keep a list of names that I like. I compile the list from interesting names I come across in everyday life. I work at a law firm and a good amount of my character names have come from clients or lawyers! When it is time for me to name a character, I look at the list and I'm usually automatically drawn to one. It sounds strange but it's true :)