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My Approach to Naming Characters

Updated on February 28, 2017

How important is the naming of a character, you might ask yourself? I’d say no different than the naming of a human being, as a name is a stamp and can have a profound effect on even your existence. Think about it for a minute, how we dare not forget the names of our favorite or some of the most startling characters, on TV for example, such as Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black or Theodore “T Bag” Bagwell from Prison Break. There’s no denying we do not forget a character’s name when it is part of the title, such as Jack in the Beanstalk, Harry Potter or Thumbelina. So a name is just as significant to a character as a character is significant to a story, for you simply can’t have a story without a character, and if a character’s name is memorable as his or her persona, and befitting, then you have a success. The question is, how does one go about defining the perfect name for one’s character, (if you aren’t writing non-fiction)? Let me count the ways…

Research, for starters; with all the name generators you can find on the internet, it kind of takes the thinking out of it. I’ve come across some of the following name generators online:

Band Name Generator

Business Name Generator

Cat Name Generator

Country and nation Name Generator

Cyborg Name Generator

Elf Name Generator

Fairy Name Generator

Fake Name Generator

Fantasy Name Generator

Gangster Name Generator

Last Name Generator

Middle-earth Name Generator

Monster Name Generator

Nickname Generator

Planet Name Generator

Random Name Generator

Robot Name Generator

The Character Name Generator

Vampire Name Generator

Victorian & Steampunk Name Generator

Werewolf Name Generator

Wu-Tang Name Generator

So whether you are trying to think up a name of an imaginary location for a story or even a name of a cat or a rap artist, the internet is at your service with all the name generators available.

Who do you know? Who do you love? You can of course always use the names of people you know, whether enemies, frenemies, family or friends. I have even used the names of deceased family members spelled backwards in some of my stories, just for an exotic and secretive twist, to commemorate them. Who wouldn’t love being part of a story?

Roads less travelled, or in this case -names. I also look up foreign names on occasion and look up the meaning of the name to know if it will accurately represent my character and the presence or meaning they will convey in the story, or the premise of what they are all about.

To recap:

1. Use a name generator to take the over thinking out of the equation.

2. Use a name you know, even spelled backwards or perhaps make a new name using all the letters from the name that you can.

3. Name your character after a person you know, that reminds you of that character.

4. Use foreign names with meanings that befit the persona of your character.

Other than this advice, you should always choose a name based on any and all applicable guidance below:

1. Choose a name popular or related to the time period and location of your story.

2. Choose a name that is memorable, popular with or relatable to your target market or audience.

3. Choose a name that defines the character, based on their personality, cultural affiliation, region they are from, era they were born, gender and meaning of the name.

4. Do the opposite of my advice for creativity’s sake.

Overtime, every good writer will develop their own approach to naming their characters. Maybe a name will come to you in a dream, or maybe you will hear the same name several times in a week to the point you roll with it. Whatever your approach, make it as memorable as you’d hope your characters to be.


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