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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

6 Ways to Come Up With Fictional Character Names

He inspired my antagonist's name to be Cute Boulevard
I have a lot of fun writing these blog about my experiences... writing. I have been getting a lot of great feedback about your writing experiences as well. The purpose of my blog is not only about sharing my point of view on creative writing, but to have conversations with other writers. Why? Because writing is a very lonely art and I enjoy the company of others, especially other writers.

So I wanted to write another fun blog post to get another fun conversation started with you wonderful guys. And the topic of today is how I come up with fictional character names. Like you didn't know from the title, right?

1. Rip off a friend or family member
This is the easiest way to create a fictional character name because you aren't creating one! All you are doing is copying. Because this is so easy, I think it is why most writers do this at one time or another. Hey, maybe your father is your hero so you figure to put him in your story as the protagonist. Just be careful. Make sure you ask permission before doing this and let them know a head of time of how they will be portrayed. You may think all you will be using is their name, but since you know them, their personality and then some may unwittingly end up in your story as well. Especially if you are the type of writer that skips outlines and lets the story unfold in front of you as you write it. So watch out. These people know where you live damn it.

2. Use Fido and your street
What? Let me explain. This one is actually quite popular. Just use your pet's name as the fictional character's first name and your street's name as your character's last name. So mine would be Butch Fields and yes, he comes from the rough part of a fictional town.

3. Match name with theme
Are you a fan of symbolism? If so, then try this one. Write down your story's themes and then head to a baby name website to search for the meaning of names. Then match your themes with names' meanings. I have found that Andre, which is my name by the way, means manly, strong and brave, which of course I am... after a few drinks.

4. Combine the names of your favorite authors
A second helping of Stephen Rice, anyone? Guess what I did there. This is very similar to number one. Maybe you don't feel comfortable using the names of living writers, so how about this... Jack Hemingway? See, I used Jack London and... you get it.

5. Use a name generator
Yep, there is such a thing. And here you thought number one was too easy. A name generator is a great program that allows a writer to discover names from other cultures. Just head to your favorite search engine and search for 'name generators.' You will find plenty of free ones to use. So if you are looking for a really great Spanish name for your character, you can skip Rosetta Stone.

6. Use an encyclopedia and your creative side
You are writing about a certain setting. No matter what genre it is, think about where the story takes place. Does it have mountains? Are they a part of your fictional characters' culture? Then research people who have mountains as a part of their culture. This makes me think about the Andean people of Peru and Appalachian people of North America.

Wait, your setting takes place on a far away planet you say? Smart a... Okay, then what does the setting look like? Since you are human it will look like some place you've seen before on Earth or a mix of places. Think of that real place or places that inspire your off world setting and think of the real people that make those places their home. Use an encyclopedia to easily learn more about those places and to get a feel of what your fictional culture could be.

After research you find out the place that had inspired your fictional one has very harsh living conditions for its people. So you create your conditions just as harsh, maybe harsher because you are an Old Testament fiction God. So the people that live there have to be strong and brave. So you name your protagonist Andre.

Yep, I took it there.

So, how do you come up with fictional character names?


  1. Hey Andre, great post. My current WIP is set in my hometown, which is a cultural crossroads in Western Louisiana. We've got French, Spanish, German, Scottish, Irish, English and multiple Native American tribal forefathers, not so much the European explorers as exiles, and plenty of haunted historic homes and colorful history, including the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte. I've made lists of local first and last names, streets and establishments. And there's the matter of my characters being LGBT and some confusion as to the identity of two butch suspects who share the same gender neutral name, one as first, the other as last. But it seems to be working out well enough. A generator would get me laughed out of town. Break a pen!

  2. Great post, Andre. I often base characters loosely on friends or fans, and have found mashing up and rearranging letters into names that fit the correct mold is a great way to go. 'Kylgren-Wode' and 'Rhysabeth-Dane', dwarves in my latest novel, 'Journeyman Warsmith', are named after my first Goodreads fan, and one of my favorite librarians. I've subconsciously paid more attention to these characters, and they've grown deeper into the story than intended. Which is awesome. I never know what they will do next.

  3. Great post! I completely depend on name generators - I used to waste time sorting through names to find one with the perfect meaning; now, I use generators to make lists of dozens of options, and I choose the one with the nicest ring to it.

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