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Naming Your Fictional Characters

Updated on July 4, 2013

Coming up with names for fictional characters can be a daunting task for writers. Sometimes it can be hard to come up with a name off the top of your head. Memorable characters usually have memorable names. When it comes to naming a character its similar to picking a name for a child, choosing the right name is important. If you choose the wrong name you can fix it before publishing, but if your book or short story gets published and then you think of the perfect name its too late.

There a number of things to consider when naming a character. One of the things you should consider is the time period in which your character lives. In certain periods names that are currently considered feminine were masculine and strictly for boys. Names that are popular today weren't necessarily popular in another era, so its important to do your research. Time periods can also dictate spellings and variants of a name. There are sites that list names that are popular during certain periods. If for example you wanted to find names for characters in Victorian England you could simply google "Victorian names" and several sites should pop up. You can also look through historical records and books written about the period you are interested in for inspiration.

Another important thing to consider is the country and culture in which your character exists. For example if you are writing a story in Renaissance England, Mary would be suitable, however if your story instead took place in Spain you should use Maria instead of Mary unless you have a good reason for doing so. On several name sites you can look up names by country of origin or language of origin, which can be useful when trying to find out what names are traditional or common to a country.

Meaning of a name can be an important factor. Not all writers think about the meaning of a name when picking it but the meaning. I personally like to pick names that I like the meaning of for my main characters in a story and give the others more common names. However it is not just the historical meaning of a name that can impact a writer but personal meaning as well. Names of admired historical figures, loved family members and good friends are more likely to end up being given to characters the author likes because they have a positive personal meaning for the author. While names of childhood bullies and those who the writer had a negative experience with will end up being a hated character or left out completely. However I usually prefer the latter, though when I do use names from personal experience I use first name only and the character is in a completely different situation. Generally I wouldn't recommend it, as it can be difficult to separate the character from the actual person to make a unique creation for your story.


You can find name books online, in book stores and even in your local library. The internet is also a great resource as you can quickly look at many different name websites. In the link box below I have listed some that I find helpful.


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Good food for thought for this can be very important. ^

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 4 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      Good advise and so true. But most times for me my characters seem to name themselves, although there are those instances where I tend to ponder a bit over it. Thanks for the read.

      Best wishes