11/26/17

How to Find the Perfect Name for Your Character


I know a good number of writers who say that naming their characters is one of the hardest things for them. And although I don’t usually struggle with finding names for my characters, I totally understand, finding the perfect name for your character can be ridiculously hard.

If you struggle with naming characters or if you’re trying to find the perfect name for them, never fear! I’ve been naming things since I could talk, strangers, furniture, kitchen utensils, animals (let’s just ignore the fact that I named them all after me… *cough*).

I like to think of characters as a blank piece of paper, they have so much potential and future personality, and because they are still blank it can be hard to name them. Try to get to know your character first. This will help you to figure out their personality, which can lead to the perfect name for them.

Ways to do this:
1. Fill out a character personality sheet. Character sheets will ask you a bunch of questions about your characters, their age, hobbies, likes, dislikes, and pretty much everything. It can really help when trying to figure out who your character is. I found a good article with some personality sheets, check it out HERE.

2. Look up pictures of what you think your character looks like. I personally think that Pinterest is the best for doing this, there’s less risk of accidentally looking up something more explicit. Just search your character’s gender, any details you’ve decided on (hair color, eye color, etc.), you can put photography or even character inspiration, and bingo!

Finding a picture that you think looks like your character can help with figuring out their personality and name.
 
And lastly, my personal favorite: 3. Talk to your characters in your head. I first read about doing this in Seize the Story: A Teen’s Guide to Writing, and it works for me. I like to imagine my character and I sitting across from each other in a coffee shop, and I just ask them what their name is.

Okay, okay, maybe that sounds crazy. But hey, if you’re a writer you are crazy, so accept that fact and try this!
 

Still stumped? Or you want to try a faster way?

1. Google baby names. Yes, if anyone goes through your search history, they’ll probably think you’re expecting or just weird because you’re on a lot of baby sites, but this works and you can find some great names this way! My favorite baby name sites: babble.com, Name Lists, and BabyNames.com
 
2. Mix n’ match names. Movie credits, people you know, etc. Works well.
 

Types of names to stay away from: 
1. Unnecessarily exotic names. Nothing screams “Mary Sue” and “special snowflake” like an exotic name on an average person, so unless your character’s parents are hippies, yeah, try not to do this.

I’m looking at you, Bella Swan and America Singer!
 
2. Names of celebrities. Always, always, always, google your character’s name to make sure you’re not naming them after an actor, author, comedian, or political figure.
 
 
At the end of it all, make sure the name feels right. Names are sometimes overlooked, but they are important. Take one of your favorite characters from a book and give them a different name. Feels wrong? That’s because the name most likely doesn’t fit their personality, which just goes to show why your character needs to have a solid name.
 

 
Do you have a hard time with naming characters?
What has helped you?
 
Happy Writing,
 
 
 

43 comments:

  1. LOVE THIS! I struggle with naming my characters ALL THE TIME. This is super helpful. Googling names is important, peeps. Learn from my mistakes. XD

    Awesome post, as usual!

    ~Ivie B
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

    (ps, did you change your header? It looks FANTASTIC!!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ivie!

      Is that a Paige Turner refrence?? Your old pen name? ;D

      Yes, I did! Thank you!!!

      Delete
    2. Yes, yes it is. XD I'm so happy I googled that before I started my blog. That would have been embarrassing. XD

      Delete
  2. Awesome ideas...I often need good names for characters (Often if I can't think of a good name, I just choose common names like "James" and "Lilly" Etc.)
    -Quinley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      Common names are great too!

      Delete
  3. I do things like this. "Hmm, Bob, Cob, Dob, Lob, Mob, Wob, Fob, Job, Hob, Rob ... ah, Rob sounds fine. Rob it is!" xD

    Seriously lol

    Otherwise I just think until I get it. It could take days or so but names are one of the first things I get down xD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, it sounds like that works though!

      Same here, they're so much fun. ^_^

      Delete
  4. It's funny, though! As writers, we create a character and then see what name suits their personality, possibly even choosing a name for its meaning to give some extra depth. But parents have a baby, a beautiful blank slate, and give him/her a name which s/he then grows into. (or else they get a nickname and everyone forgets their proper name. *shrugs*)

    Since naming characters is something I DEFINITELY struggle with, I do appreciate this post, Gray! :D
    - Jem Jones

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is funny!

      I actually don't like my real name a lot, it doesn't fit me quite right, if that makes sense, but I do get what you're saying!

      You're welcome, thank you! :)

      Delete
  5. I'm going to be the weird one - I choose names based on a characteristic or a meaning (you know like, thunder, strong friend, etc.) within a certain nationality. Or one that the characters pick, whatever works.

    These are some really great tips, Gray!

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellungmuse.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really cool!

      Thank you, Catherine. ^_^

      Delete
  6. Ah yes, I have a hard time with this:P Especially with guys, 'cause I want to name them after my heroes. I also hate giving a character a name if I know someone who has that same name.

    But thank you for the resources!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a hard time giving characters names after people I know, too.

      You're welcome! Thanks for reading!!

      Delete
  7. Eep YES. Gray, you nailed this post amazingly. These tips are the bestest.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm almost never that sort of namer. I don't like to apply any extra meaning to my characters' names. Generally, I'll just pick out names at random that work with the nationality/pseudo-nationality of the character.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like it works well for you!
      I sometimes do that too, but other times I get too picky when it comes to names.

      Delete
  9. I totally get what you mean by a character's name not feeling right, I have literally given the same character about a dozen different names before I found the one that really suited them! XD

    I don't always struggle to come up with names for my characters, sometimes I do, but when that happens I normally just put it to the back of my mind, until one day I come across a name and I'm just like, "Aha! That's the PERFECT name for him/her!" And sometimes I suddenly have a really cool name in my head, and I want to create a character that fits that name. And other times I simply create a character and come up with the perfect name for them straight away. It depends. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've done the same thing! XD

      It's the same way for me a lot, too. Sometimes it's easy other times it's tricky.

      Delete
  10. Great ideas! I'll add your post to my handout on naming characters!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Gray this is so cool!

    Naming my characters is one of the highlights for me when I write a new story. Like you said, I just get to know them. Most of the time they tell me what their name is! I also theme it sometimes, like the initials of someone I know and want to represent, or a name I actually got inspired to write the story from.

    Awesome post. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, Thank you!

      Naming characters is a lot of fun, and using themes like that sounds really cool.

      Delete
  12. Wow, I've never thought of some of these tips! Thanks, Gray! Baby name websites, though... I'M ALL OVER THEM! xD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome!

      Baby name websites are the best. :D

      Delete
  13. Love this post!! While I don't have a whole ton of trouble coming up with names for my characters, (I typically come up with the name first and build the character around it) I do run into ruts sometimes and I use a lot of the tips you listed above. Especially when it comes to naming characters from different cultures, baby name sites and Google are lifesavers. XP OH AND THE CELEBRITY THING—I think I've done that several times and been like, whoops! XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      Yep, they are lifesavers.

      Yeah, same with celebrity names! XD

      Delete
  14. I basically just look up baby names as well! xD

    I strongly agree with you on avoiding unnecessarily exotic names. Or names where the author hasn't properly looked up the names of the character's country e.g. Cho Chang (literally two surnames) and Park from Eleanor and Park. Another surname as a first name :(

    And America Singer is such a terrible name :( I also remember some UK tween fiction authors naming their characters these really weird names. However, it's their book, their life *shrugs*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surnames for first names are kind of okay to me, since more and more people are actually using them for names, but yes, they can get annoying.

      America Singer is awful! XD
      But yes, that's true.

      Delete
  15. I NEEDED THIS AHH. I couldn't think of a name for one of my characters so for half the book I wrote [insert name] instead of an actual name.. it was BAD.

    Bella Swan. *shudders*

    ~ noor

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did that once, but instead of "[insert name]" I put "xxx"! Xd

      But yeah! I know your pain.

      Bella Swan...blech.

      Delete
  16. Character naming is one of my favorite things to do!! I was bad at it for a little while, but once I got the hang of it, I fell in love with it. Last names are still hard with my fantasy characters, though.

    I love this post! Looking up pictures is probably the best way for me to learn about my characters. And I spend an inordinate amount of time on baby naming websites when I'm in my planning process. Great tips, as always, Gray!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it's a lot of fun!

      Fantasy names look hard.

      Thank you, Sarah!!!

      Delete
  17. I totally agree with you on when it comes regular people with exotic names. It doesn't feel natural and it annoys me everything I come across that name while reading a book! Great tips! :)

    www.letmecrossover.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  18. I actually have a list of names on my phone that I just check when I need a first or last name. It's got weird names, simple names, cool names - basically anything I come across that I think might be useful I type it into the list.

    And I do highly recommend checking out names on the internet (or at least run it across a few friends) before using. Or else you may accidently use a (generally) male name for your pen name.... *looks at self* I was 99% sure Julian was a girl's name when I picked it....then suddenly everyone's like "Yeah, it's a boy's name..."

    ReplyDelete
  19. And love all the coffee!! (Though I'm not a coffee drinker, I love those little cups!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really smart, I might do that sometime! :D

      I think Julian is more of a gender neutral name nowadays always, besides it fits you! ^_^

      Ooh, thank you! I love coffee so I thought it was needed.

      Delete
  20. Firstly, I am so sorry I haven't visited for awhile. I love how your blog's design is now! Its very nice. I can tell you like coffee. :D

    About character names... well... let's just say I am NOT the person to ask advice on naming characters, because I have a really difficult time doing that. And so I am extremely happy that you wrote this post!!

    Just yesterday as a matter of fact, I was having a hard time naming one of my MCs. I couldn't think of/find a suitable name, so I went to my last resort: looking up what words are in other languages for inspiration.
    I might be the only person who does that, but yes, I look up, say, what "ruby" is in German just to see if it would work as a name or if it gives me an idea for a name.

    I looked up what ruby was in German and found it was "rubin" well, the MC I couldn't think of a name for is a young man, and I decided that Rueben would suit him perfectly! So in that instance, Google Translator came to the rescue. XD
    But it doesn't always, and when it doesn't baby name sites appear in my search history and my brain ends up hurting; haha. :D

    Thank you so much, again, for this post! Very helpful for poor writers like me who have a hard time naming their precious characters. :)
    *gives you coffee*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's perfectly fine! I have a hard time keeping up with a lot of blogs as well. :)

      Thanks, I do! XD

      I use to do that for character names, and Rueben is a really nice guy name.

      You're welcome! *accepts coffee* :D

      Delete
  21. Filling out character sheets is actually pretty good advice... And also, one that I definitely need to do more often lol. I tend to get lazy when it comes to figuring out every single detail about my characters, so I definitely felt like this post was chastising me lolol

    And yeah, looking up baby names from Google or baby naming websites are also a good way to find suitable names! Some sites also list the name's meaning, so if you're feeling really meticulous and want to stick to your character's theme, that's also pretty useful I think ❤ I read some comments above stating that too, so I guess I'm not alone when it comes to that sentiment XD

    Also YES EXOTIC NAMES. Avoid at all costs. Unless the story is a fantasy one where everyone's names are expected to sound un-human, exotic names are just not very realistic lol I still have to admit though, despite America's unusual name, The Selection was such a guilty pleasure for me >:D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're a lot of fun too!
      And I'm guilty of the same thing, and that's why I'm trying to get it together a little more, lol.

      Nope! You're not alone!!! XD

      Fantasy does make an exception, I'll give it that. I hear that a lot about the Selection! XD

      Delete

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