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How To Name Your Characters In Short Stories And Novels

Updated on November 1, 2013

Let Me Introduce You, My Friend

Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry.

Bill Cosby

There is so much wisdom in those words by Bill Cosby. Sure it’s funny, but it also alludes to an important facet of short story and novel writing, the naming of our characters.

Think about this for a second: the name we give our characters is the first introduction the reader has for those characters. First impressions can and have been made based on the fortunate, or unfortunate, naming of a character.

Our goal, then, as short story or novel writers, is to come up with a name that is memorable but not ridiculous; fairly unique without being weird. We also want to choose a name that is true to the personality of the character. The song “A Boy Named Sue” was worth a few laughs, but naming a male character Sue in a novel might be a pushing your luck as a writer.

What follows are some things to think about when naming characters. As always, take what you need and leave the rest for someone else who might be interested.

What would you name this character in a book?
What would you name this character in a book? | Source

Do You Homework Before Naming Anyone

Bob Marley isn't my name. I don't even know my name yet.

Bob Marley

I always suggest a writer flesh out a character before naming him or her. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, the best way to do this is to write a short bio of your main characters first; that way you can get to know your characters before giving them a label that will stay with them for the lifetime of the novel or short story.

What is their personality? Where were they born and when were they born? What are their beliefs?

A character in my novel “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today” is named Astarte. I began with a bio of this character; once I had a feeling for who she was I went in search of a name and found it among the ancient Phoenicians.

A mystery novel I am reading right now has a private detective as the lead character. His name is Moses Prager, and the name Moses, Old Testament in nature, is the perfect fit for this man’s personality and belief system.

Avoid Repetition and Simplification

Having too many characters with short first names is mundane at best and boring at worst. Having characters whose names rhyme is also confusing and annoying. Having names that all begin with the same letter should also be avoided.

Remember that your characters are unique individuals. With that in mind, their names should be easily recognizable and memorable.

A name writing exercise

Avoid Pronunciation Mistakes

If you can’t easily say your character’s name then how can you expect your readers to do so? If the names of your characters are so convoluted as to seem like an Algebraic formula, you might be making life a bit too difficult for your readers.

I love international thrillers, but occasionally I’ll come across an author who does not realize that Americans have a very limited experience with other cultures. They will toss in a number of foreign names and by the third chapter I can’t keep track of the characters, and once confusion sets in my attention span is severely limited.

As writers, the last thing we want to do is turn our readers off simply because of a name. When all else fails, use the KISS Method in naming, even when naming foreign nationals.

My step-daughter Allora...beautiful name, yes?
My step-daughter Allora...beautiful name, yes? | Source

Remember Sound and Impressions

Does the sound of the name give the impression of that character that you want?

Here a little lesson in phonetics can be helpful. Hard consonants portray a strong character; soft consonants do the opposite.

Is the name pleasing to the ear of your reader? Say the whole name out loud and ask yourself if it sounds like who your character is. One technique you might use is to differ the number of syllables in the first name and the surname. Bob Robb will not work; Bob Andersen is much better because there is a rhythm to those two names. Think of some of the classic characters in literature….Atticus Finch…..Nero Wolfe….these names not only sound like the character but they flow nicely as well.

William means "protector of the kingdom." I can live with that. :)
William means "protector of the kingdom." I can live with that. :) | Source

Pay Attention to the Meaning of a Name

As I mentioned earlier, one of my characters, Astarte, was chosen because the name means fertility and that was significant in my novel.

I was just talking with a friend from India the other day. Her name, Vidya, means education, and she mentioned another name, Vinaya, which means ‘one who is humble.’ Both are wonderful examples of this writing tip.

Do Your Research

The internet has made it so easy to come up with suitable names for characters. If I were to name an elderly person in a story, I might try online obituaries of people born in the early 1900’s or late 1800’s. If I were to name someone of a different ethnicity, a simple Google search would prove invaluable.

Phone books are very handy if you are stumped on a name as are baby name books. Newspapers are another source worth checking out. I am not big on reinventing the wheel and I’m certainly not big on inventing names. Do your research and borrow freely. Having said that, I would avoid naming your next character Atticus Finch. That might be stepping over the invisible lines of good taste and common sense.

Helpful thoughts from an author

Ask Your Character How They like Their Name

I know….I know….sounds silly, but hang with me a second. Presumably you know your character. Try this exercise: ask your character if they like the name you gave them. How do they feel about it? What kind of reaction does it spark in them? Their answers to those questions just might inspire a backstory about them or give you a clue to their emotions.

The more you know about your character the more your character will come alive for you and for your readers. Have conversations with your characters and get to know them; it will pay dividends.

Bev doesn't like her name; I think it's perfect
Bev doesn't like her name; I think it's perfect | Source

Enough with the Homework

Memorable but not ridiculous…..unique without being weird….loyal to the personality of the character….these, then, are your goals when naming characters for your story or novel.

Naming may seem like a rather simple affair, but if you take a look at the names of some of your favorite fictional characters, I think you will discover they had a bit more depth and meaning than you originally guessed.

There are no shortcuts to good writing. I have said this over and over again, and chances are I will repeat it in the future. Writing is a craft. It is an art form. If everyone could do it easily then it would no longer be a craft; it would simply be glorified diary writing.

The greats who have come before us, and the greats who are writing today, all understood this truth. It is one thing for friends and family to tell us that we are good writers; it is another thing altogether to earn that label.

Work at your craft. Do the little things that separate the exceptional writers from the average writers. When you have done that then sit back, pour yourself a cold drink, and toast yourself for a job well done.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lizzy, it sounds like you made a wise choice for that character given his background...well done. I have a rich character, a snobbish sort of gentleman, in my latest, so I had to give him a rather snooty name. Great fun.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      How funny for this Hub to come to my attention just as I am writing a short novella.

      I did give one of the characters a ridiculous, stuffy-sounding name, with the back story that he hates his name and can't imagine what his parents were thinking. He is considering a legal name change, but has to first consider the complications that will cause. LOL

      Voted up +++

      (sorry for the 'removed comment' blank slot--my comment somehow published itself twice...so I deleted the dupe.)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I do indeed, Deb! Thanks for the visit. I hope you are feeling better. I look forward to visiting Boomer Lake again soon.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You have brought up a very valid point. Bet you still remember those easy, yet notable names that your classmates have...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, novel writing is not for everyone for the exact reason you gave. It is a tough process for sure. Thank you my faithful friend.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      I could never write a novel because I would never even think about these details, but it makes so much sense. Thinking about the books I've read, the names do make a difference and sometimes a name resonates with me, in a good (or bad) way.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....thanks Peg! Great reflections. Nymphadora Tonks is a classic for the Ages!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      As always, BillyB, these are useful and important points. Like Tobusiness, I tend to use the names of people I've met in the past, in particular, if the setting of the story is of the era when that name was common. It just makes it easier to remember who the characters are when they start growing in numbers within the story. In the real world, there are those who were assigned names like Hermione Herman, sister of Pee Wee Herman, both names are well, interesting. And then there are the fictional characters like Nymphadora Tonks, who insists on being called by her surname for obvious reasons.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ah, drbj, don't we hate the PC police? What a bunch of buggers they are, with nothing better to do than tell us how to talk so we don't offend one of the 7.1 billion people on the planet. LOL

      Thanks as always for the laugh and support.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      It's not as easy, Bill, for writers to make up names these days for their protagonists as it was long ago before political correctness came along. The Grimm Brothers would have to write about the Seven Little People who befriended Snow White. :)

      Very informative and useful hub, m'dear. Voted up!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brandi, I love that story. Thanks for sharing it. Bad Habit,huh? sounds like a character from James Bond. LOL

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      All of the points you make in here are right on the money! It brings me to share a story from my childhood. LOL When I was a little girl, around 3, an uncle was married to his high school sweetheart. She was a lovely lady. She adored me, so I'm told. I used to make up stories. I had a wild imagination. So every time they would come visit, I would have to tell them a story. Her favorite of mine, which she still reminds me of today (decades later), is the one I made up about Bad Habit. In my 3-year-old mind, Bad Habit was a bad man. Anyway, quite fitting for your character naming tips. Hehe!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Kim and I'm glad you found the time to visit me. Have a great day.

    • ocfireflies profile image

      ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Life has gotten in the way so I am way behind in HP. Love this hub! I can remember so many great discussions regarding just the name of a particular character. As usual, great stuff!

      Kim

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Lisa, and thank you for sharing your smile with me this morning. I always enjoy seeing you here.

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Williams 3 years ago

      Hi, Bill:

      This is such great advice! I never really thought about it before, but in some of the fantasy series I get into reading, I have trouble following certain segments because I get the names of the characters confused! Most of the names in my book are pretty easy to pronounce, but my main villain has a name that I have trouble with when I read it out loud. I may have to re-evaluate her personality and change her name to something simpler! Thanks for sharing this fantastic advice!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ginger...pure and spunky....now there is a great name with a great meaning. Love it! Thank you for sharing your experience....very interesting process.

      bill

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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      I personally love name Bev :) This topic is so interesting to me. I remember saying my kids names over and over again before they were born to make sure they flowed. I've never heard the Bill Cosby quote, but I'm guessing that's why I use the first and middle names of my kids when they are in trouble, as their middle names in in vowels! Thank you for this thought-provoking hub. - Ginger, meaning "pure" or "spunky" depending on the source

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Jo, I love your name. I think using people from your past is a valid and useful approach, as long as the name fits the character you have created. Good luck and thank you so much.

      blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora! Give it a try and see if you don't feel better about your characters.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Interesting! I've always hated my name, so when I write I think a lot about the names. I tend to use names of people from my past. Naming your characters is so important, but we often don't give it enough thought. Another very useful hub. My best to you, just Keep protecting that old kingdom Mister bill. :)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, you raised some points I never thought about. It only mattered to me that I like the name. Another very useful lesson from you. Thank you and voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      PS, you are very right, the characters do take on a life of their own and a persona...that does make it very easy to name them. Thank you for taking the time to visit my friend.

      hugs and blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vkwok, thanks a lot buddy and best wishes on your newest book.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Joelle, interesting that you name your projects....I feel like I know my characters when I am done with a book...like they are friends I have known for years. :)

      Thank you!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Good morning The characters take on a life of their own as we begin to write and that is helpful when it comes to naming them. I really do not write much fictional work. At least not right now...it has never been my strong suit. But you can believe that I am tucking away all of these gems you offer to use if a novel is ever born from within.

      Many Angels are on the way Have a lovely day today ....ps

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Interesting advice Bill. I should consult this hub for what to name new characters.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My weekend is going well indeed, Dianna! Thank you for sharing part of your weekend with me.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      A name is so much of our identity, even in characters we read about in books. Interesting topic and it is one that will help create a memorable story. Hope your weekend is going well.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I had a naturopathic doctor called Payne! True!

      I don't write stories but sometimes I like to give names of some of the characters I create (painting projects) that rime. I can do that easily in French... in English it's another story :-(

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol....a dentist named Payne? LOL Great one! I'll have to remember that the next time I'm in a playful writing mood. Of course I'll credit you for it.

      Thanks for the laugh and enjoy your Saturday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, that is the key in most cases my friend. The things I write about, the tips, are things most of us learned over the course of time, but we may have forgotten them. I'm just the Writer Reminder. :)

      blessings and love

      billy

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith...I love the meaning of your name and thank you for the kind words about Allora...she is a beauty for sure.

      blessings always my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Doc, I wonder if mother's just sensed the importance of that last vowel. :) Too funny! Thanks for sharing that laugh and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jon, I like your approach. Thanks for sharing it with us my friend.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 3 years ago from Arizona

      Sometimes I marvel at the names authors give their characters. Some times I think they fit and others not. I suppose a dectective should not be called Dick. And a Dentist Payne, and a movie star Starlet...Years ago I read a book and there was my husbands name with his actual profession. I emailed the author and she said it was a coincidence and used his name as it was slightly common.. I asked my husband if he had dated this girl..Anyway great write as always.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub to welcome me back Billy ;wonderful ideas which I vote up, across and save. Again I come away having learnt so much or at least you have managed to reinstate something I had over looked over the years.

      Here's to so many more for us both to share on here ;enjoy your weekend .Lots of love from Wales.

      Eddy.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Great insight Bill! When I started writing my novel, I had chosen certain names, but they just did not feel just right with the character, and I felt so compelled to find the right names, which I believe I have found. Yes, it is that fleshing out process. My given name ends in a vowel and it means "reaper" or "harvester" .... and once I knew the meaning of my name, I now love it.

      Allora, beautiful name for a beautiful step-daughter indeed!

      Have a great weekend and be sure to take tons of lovely photos with your new camera,

      Faith Reaper

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 3 years ago

      Thank you Billy for this valuable information. These tips are helpful. I can't wait to read your book. My name ends with a vowel too and I remember my mother yelling at me when she was upset and giving that last letter a certain emphasis. will check out the writer's market.

    • jonmcclusk profile image

      Jonathan McCloskey 3 years ago from Cinnaminson, New Jersey

      Great tips Bill, when I'm picking a name I'll usually say it over and over in my head to see if I can live with hearing it over and over again. Then I see if it fancy's the kind of character I want to build. The tips here will definitely be put to use.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I do know, Brian, and I agree completely. I see far too many writers who choose a generic name for their main character and I think that is doing a disservice to their work. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Brian Prickril profile image

      Brian Prickril 3 years ago from Savannah, GA

      Hi, Bill. Interesting topic today, and one that deserves some attention. I think it was Hemingway (among other fine writers, I'm sure) that enjoyed using character "ticks" to really make someone stand out. I always thought that the name itself should strike an image, you know?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sheila, I have a partially finished book and I used the internet on a few of those names because of ethnicity. I don't know what we ever did before the internet. LOL

      Thanks for the visit and I hope you have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you as always DDE! Enjoy your weekend my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      VVanNess, thank you so much! I'm glad you decided to stop by. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it Cardisa, and I like those names as well. Thanks for affirming my stuff here; it's good to know others think this way. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Genna, thank you for mentioning that, which I should have. Doing a Google search of a name is a great idea.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Michele; thank you for stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will Maria; thank you!

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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I'm thinking my characters must talk to me subconsciously before I choose a name because I think the names I've chosen hit on almost every one of your suggestions. Of course, sometimes I do choose a name simply because I like it. What I do always try to remember is if I create a character who is, let's say, of Latino heritage I try to choose a first and last name to fit that ancestry. And you're so right ... the internet is a great place to find names. In one of my novels, I needed names for a Jewish Rabbi and a Islamic Imam and found very good names by looking at sites for Hebrew and Arabic names.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      How To Name Your Characters In Short Stories And Novels, wel advised and so interesting thoughts here

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      What a great article! I read it strictly because the title was so interesting, but the content was way more than I expected. I was really impressed! Very nice. Voted up!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 3 years ago from Jamaica

      I used to struggle a lot with this until a few months ago my instinct told me exactly what you wrote. I write a short description of my characters first (that's after working out the concept). When you know your character the name just comes to you...for me anyway. I have written stories before with good names and some I had to go and change the names but my two most lovable characters are:

      Bailey - female heroine currently being written for client.

      Catrain - female heroine for my medieval romance. I had to do some research for this one.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Excellent Hub, Bill. (I’m always commenting this on your hubs, so my apologies if I sound like a broken record.) Names are sooo important for all the reasons you have mentioned. I also research names to make sure I’m not stepping on anyone’s lively toes. This may include the name of an investment firm in Manhattan for a story. Voted way up and beyond. :-)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      True! Many of us just do not pay attention to names, they just seem so simple. Thanks for the reminder that it's all in the name.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Thank you, sweet man...nice to be validated. You have a terrific weekend as well...!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bitter??? I think not, Maria. The two Maria's I know on HP are beautiful human beings. Not an ounce of bitter in them.

      Thank you as always beautiful lady. Have a wonderful weekend.

      love,

      bill

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Funny, Bill...I hated " Maria" as my sister picked it. Now much older, I have come to like it very much...even though it is so overused for many a Hispanic character on TV.

      One of my favorite references is a huge book with names detailed...not to sound it, but dang, "Maria" means bitter...!! So I am always trying to outsmart that idea...

      You have provided much food for thought here. This is a keeper, just like you.

      Love, well, you know!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I like your solution to difficult names....Mr. G...that's perfect. It's a shame the author has made it necessary for you to do that, but it's a perfect solution. :) Thanks for the visit.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I think it does too, Marlene. Thank you and I'll tell her you said so. :)

    • Mary McShane profile image

      Mary McShane 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida

      I used to hate when every other book I picked up had same or similar first and last names. Last names are always very generic and if they are ethnic, writers should try to use the easiest name to pronounce. If it has more than 15 letters with only two vowels, I substitute a name for it so I can move along reading the story - like Mr. G or Mrs. P. As for asking my characters how they feel about the name I chose for them , gee, I'm afraid I'll open the door for a full frontal assault (critique) of the whole story. just kidding. Great post with lots of good info.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I use to read a lot of romance novels. It seemed like every tenth book that I read had a character named Rock. By the way, Bev is such a beautiful name. It fits her perfectly.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, I have had similar experiences with bestsellers. Then I'll read the occasional novel where it is obvious the character's names were chosen with great care. There are so many things to consider as a writer. :)

      Thanks for the visit and your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, thanks for your thoughts on this topic. I have heard similar accounts of how writers named characters, that the name just came to them.

      I wonder if most kids hate their names when they are young? I hated Bill, and there doesn't seem to be anything particularly offensive about it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I recently read a NY Times Bestseller where the names were almost impossible to keep straight, as all the prominent female characters had very feminine names. No nicknames, unusual names, or gender neutral names. I wondered where all the Bobbies, Charlies and Camerons were when the book's names were assigned. They add color to a story. This was an interesting hub on a topic that needs consideration by authors and editors alike.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, character names seem to pop into my head, then I build the story around how I perceive the person behind the name. Then again, I've not written a whole lot of stories (yet). For instance, I love Faith in the short story series I'm working on. Her name came to me first, then the title The Gifts of Faith. Since she came to me I've been writing down her traits and what I learn about her as she speaks to me. She and I have a lot to learn from each other. This is the first time I've actually thought of a character as a real person. As such, perhaps she will answer my questions regarding her given name.

      When I was little I hated my name because in the late 50's, early 60's there just weren't any Shaunas. I was often called Sharon or Charlotte (to this day I don't like those names because of it). My name is actually the female form of Shaun, which has Irish origins and means 'God's gift'. I'm sure if my mom knew I would give her such a hard time in my early life, she would have named me Broomhilda! :-)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      We can always hope, Alan! It is my same wish. :)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Elementary, my dear bucson. I've spent many an hour trawling for info through books and the Internet. One day maybe it'll reap rewards...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alan, you hit on the secret of reading my hubs: get here early and the waiting line is much shorter. :)

      You, my friend, should write your own article about naming characters. My goodness gracious we have it easy here in the States. Toss in a Smith, a Jones and an Anderson and we just about have half the population covered. LOL Thanks for the mini lesson; I learn more from you than all my college history courses combined.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      (Not such a tall stack this time - must've come in early!)

      Finding names can be as fun as writing the stories. The research an take you into all sorts of nooks and crannies of life. When I began my main novels in the RAVENFEAST series, I began by naming my main character Asbeorn, but realised there could be confusion at a later stage when I raised the name of his half-brother Jarl Osbeorn and the Norman William fitzOsbern. After some more head-scratching I hit on 'Ivar' and then went looking for a surname or family name. I knitted him into the Danish royal family with having a young mother named Gunnlaug, a fictional sister of King Knut Sveinson, who dies in or shortly after childbirth. So Ivar is raised by a stepmother, Astrid or Estrith, who is Knut's real sister anyway. Ulf Thorkelsson was slain in Roskilde cathedral - some say on the orders of Knut as a pay-off for Ulf's siding with his enemies - so Ivar becomes a liability. But then again Ivar isn't really Ulf's son, as he' led to believe. He is Hunding's son by Ulf's wife Gunnlaug and to save face Hunding becomes Ivar's uncle. Lots of mediaeval skulduggery introduced in HUNDING's SAGA here on the Hub-pages to weave into the book plot via being thought of as King Harold's kinsman.

      Other names in the books and Hub-pages are historical, made up names using a guide to Anglo-Saxon naming in a 'Teach Yourself' book and names 'grafted' from the Saxon Chronicles or Internet... and created after reference to place names such as Sewardstone in Essex which brings fruit as Ivar's friend 'Saeward'.

      Further names are gleaned from the sagas.

      Fun, like I said.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, I love it....a food for thought handlers permit. LOL Thanks for the laugh my friend and have a great weekend, one well-deserved.

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      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow how cool about how you got the name Astarte! You give so much food for thought you are gonna have to get a license soon! I love it. Now that is my thought for the weekend! lol Really.

      ^

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, you don't have perfect children??? I'm amazed! :)

      Celebrities and their names....Moonchild??? Seriously? Can you imagine going through life with that name?

      Thanks for the laugh and thanks for always being here. Have a wonderful weekend, Ann!

      bill

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I will indeed, DJ! Thank you and I hope yours is filled with wonder and love.

      bill

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      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I love choosing names for characters; they're often based on people I know or knew, sometimes passing acquaintances or old students, sometimes family (though they don't know it!). My children aren't keen on their names though I think they're perfect (the names, not the children!). I've always been really happy with my name so I'm lucky. Strength or softness in a name is important, as you say, and you're so right that the initial consonant plays a huge part.

      Mind you, I think some celebrities need their heads examining when they name their children and give them ridiculous labels to live with or live up to!

      More great advice from the master of hubpages! Enjoy your weekend! Ann

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      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      More great ideas! I have come to expect nothing less from you.

      Have a great weekend, my friend.

      DJ.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, that doesn't sound strange at all; you are, after all, the creator of those characters. You would know which sounds "right"....thanks for sharing that.

      bill

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      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Really helpful with great ideas. I use the internet to look for names and I like to feel as the characters when I write so I am getting the ask the character advice. I hadn't considered the hard/soft sound and will do in future. The names just somehow feel right; strange as that sounds. Thank you for the good ideas :)

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Lizzy! Where is the humor today????

      Spy novels kill me; I can never remember the Russian characters. LOL

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      Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Baby name books are another good resource--one called the Baby Name Wizard has a little graph for each entry showing when the name was popular and how often it is/was used.

      It's true that names are important--this article reminded me of times when I was confused because of character names that were too similar to other characters in the book or simply too difficult to remember over time.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....Eric, if you look at just the right angle it does sort of look like billybuc. :) Thanks buddy and have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! Just a little tip that might help someone struggling with this aspect. At least I hope it does.

      Have a great weekend my friend.

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      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I always wondered about this subject. But by golly jingles it sure is like how I picked names for my children --- of course in that case it was also wishful thinking and a whole lot of projections.

      I swear that young boy surely do look like a Billy Buc to me.

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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I never thought to ask my character how they felt about the name I chose, but the more I read it here, the more it made sense. Great tips and thank you for sharing again your insight with us. Happy Friday and have a great weekend, too!