Saturday, April 24, 2010

Naming Fictional Characters. Here Are A Few Tips!

Names are important. Naming our fictional characters can be as difficult as naming our children. Maybe harder, because we often need more than one name! The name has to fit the character's age, gender, background, and ethnicity. Best of all, when we've found a really great name, it reflects and color our character's personality.

A character's name is a huge deal! Memorable names touch us deep inside and stay with us a long time after we've finished reading. Some of our favorite fictional characters stays with us forever.
  • Frodo Baggins from The Lord of The Rings,
  • Wilber from Charlotte's Web
  • Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the wind,
  • George Milton and Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men,
  • Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird,
  • Larietta "Carrie" N. White from Carrie,
  • Betty Rizzo and Danny Zuko from Grease,
  • Darth Vader from Starwars,
  • Edward Cullen from Twilight.

Okay, so maybe you don't share my picks above, but you can surely come up with your own list.

So where do we find names? Besides the phone book, friends and relatives, the Internet is the most obvious modern resource. Having the Internet at our fingertips, it's hard to imagine how authors like Steinbeck found so many suitable names for his characters.

Here are a few helpful sites:

1. Popular baby names.
The Social Security Administration's homepage is a great resource. There you can search most popular names for a particular year, or decade. It's very user friendly. Just type the year you want into a little search window. But I can save you time by telling you that Michael was the most popular boy's name between the decades 1960-1990. Guess a popular girl's name!

This website has all kinds of good stuff. Boy names, girl names, meaning of names, celebrity names, a cool name list, soap opera names, names from fashion, dog names, cat names, and more!

Maybe you're looking for something more flavorful. This site has names with information about their pronunciation, meaning, origin country, region, and gender. How about the name Abdalla. Guess if it's a boy or a girl? It means servant of God.

4. The Internet Surname Database.
Here is every American surname is alphabetical order. Just click on the letter you want and get information about its origin, history and variation in spelling.

5. Exotic Pet Names
This is from It has names for exotic pets, alphabetical list of pet names, and names for pairs of pets. How about a name like Magnum PIg for your potbellied friend?

So how about it, which are your favorite fictional character names?


  1. Thanks for the links - they'll definitely come in handy for someone like me. I hate picking character names (and I'm not that great at doing it). Sometimes they can change multiple times during the first draft until I'm finally satisfied.

  2. I have so. much. trouble. with naming my characters. I use many of the sites you've listed, but had never thought of the Exotic Pet Names one. That would certainly be helpful for fantasy worlds!

    Two of my favorite names you didn't mention are "Anne Shirley" later "Anne Blythe" and also "Sherlock Holmes."


  3. Jaydee, I often have to change characters names a few times until I find a name that sticks.

    Bookewyrme, the Exotic Pet Names are fun. I want a pet just so I can pick a name for it.

  4. I can use that surname one right about now. I'm almost done with the novel & a major character still has no last name. Thanks for this!

    P.S. I love the idea about the exotic pet names. Very clever.

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  6. Kirsten, I am waiting to read a teaser from your novel on your blog. Are you planning on posten a little section from it on you blog?

  7. P.S. I think Wooster may be the correct spelling.

  8. Okay, my all time favorite funny-named characters come from the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse. For starters there is Agustus (Gussie) Fink-Nottle, then Stilton Cheesewright, Bingo Little, and Honoria Glossop. There are many others (upper crust English gentry). If you don't think these stories are hysterically funny you probably won't think the names are funny either. Just keep on writing and christening your imaginary characters!

  9. Those are funny names! Thanks Susan.

  10. I've got some crazy character names but I love them! I have a Silver, Baz, Mattie (short for Matilda, of course)... I try to make them memorable and also to fit in with the characters.

  11. Talli, those are some great names. I love the name Matilda. She is also a character in one of my favorite children's books.

  12. Thanks, These are great links!

    One thing I do as well is keep a list in my dayplanner of all the interesting & unique names I happen to overhear people using throughout the day (especially parents calling out to their kids at parks, malls and schools).

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  13. Angela, thanks! Your dayplanner idea is great. I have to start doing that too.