Tips for Picking Names for Your Fictional Characters
Finding the right character name is an important decision for every writer.
Each name should be a good fit for the personality of the character,
their role in the book, and the time period of the story. You also want your
names to be unique and memorable, while always keeping the needs of the reader in mind.
Here are some tips on
selecting the perfect names for your story.
baby name books and online lists to generate name ideas.
- Browse an old telephone book for last names.
- Keep your character names as simple as you can while still being true to the era of the story
and the conventions of the genre.
You don't want readers to have to slow down while reading as they try to figure out overly complex names.
- Try not to make any two characters' name sound too similar. It's best to
have all of your main character's names start with a different letter or sound.
Also avoid any names that sound alike or names with a similar structure.
You don't want readers to have to go back and reread sections of the story in order to recall who is who.
- Run an online search for each character’s full name to check for any famous or well-known people, either real or fictional,
with that same name.
- Say the name out loud to give it a test. You might want to ask a couple of friends to read the name
to you so you can see how others would pronounce it.
Consider your character's age and birth year when selecting a name.
Check out the Social Security Administration’s name list
for popular names per year.
Consider the meaning behind a name. This can be a subtle way of incorporating and defining
who the character is.
Think of the imagery a name conveys.
Think of the local culture and the setting where your character was born (and thus where they were named).