“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare
I wrote this post a few years ago but decided to resurface it as it’s that time of year again – NaNoWriMo!
When creating these fictional worlds of ours, there is something that permeates every aspect of the writing process, and that is name creation.
Though it’s not just naming characters, oh no! You have to name the town they are riding through, the breed of the horse he mounts, the Inn that they are stopping at, the brand of whiskey he prefers… the naming process is never ending, and is something that can consume you if you let it.
This blog post is specifically going to be looking at naming your characters. I will do a separate blog concerning place names etc.
I will also list some awesome resources you can look into to help you with your naming process.
Depending on what you want from your names, there are various approaches to finding the perfect name for your character.
Roots and Deeper Meanings
It is a common thought among many writers and readers alike, that names should reflect a person’s personality.
However, you still want an air of mystery around your character, and naming your strong, brave hero Ryan Braveheart just doesn’t cut it.
A quick google search tells me that Adalard means brave, a name that doesn’t quite shove it in your face. There are many sites such as this one which allow you to search for names, depending on their meanings.
The deeper meaning of a name does not always have to reflect the character’s personality. For example, the female protagonist (also antagonist if you want to look at it that way) of AMC’s Revenge, is called Emily Thorne.
Now, to me, Thorne could reflect that she is a thorn in the side of many of the people she interacts with, causing them pain. Therefore, her name reflects her role in the story, not just necessarily her nature.
Another thing that you have to consider before settling in on that name, is whether it fits in the setting of your story. The genre of a story, the location and the date it is set in makes a tremendous difference.
If you writing teen fiction set in the current world, a girl named Cephenrene would look out of place. The same if you used a name like Abbey in a fantasy novel.
It is also important to do your research, it won’t do if you say your protagonist is Japanese, yet they have an Icelandic name.
Something I think most authors are familiar with are baby name sites. A trick that works for many authors, though personally I find can become quite tedious as you trawl through lists until you find a name that pops out.
An idea that works for some is to name your character like you would your child, because essentially it is. So these sites can be very useful, and not just for generic names either.
Great fantasy names can be found using sites like these as well. For example, this site offers Nordic Names that are perfect for fantasy, and there are many options available there!
Something many writers worry about, myself included, is the originality of their names. It’s not always because I worry that I’m stealing a name, it’s more that I think my characters deserve better. Here are a couple of ways I get around this.
Rearranging a name
I really like taking a normal name, flipping it around and messing with it a little, to get a completely different name. For example, Steven – Nevets – Nevest – or something like that. That example isn’t particularly great, but I’m hardly going to give away my little babies am I.
Mixing two names together
You like the sound of a couple of names, and you can’t decide which to use. Try mixing them together. You may end up with something that’s even better. For example Olvarda and Veledine. You may have a penchant for names ending in ine but hate names beginning with V. Olvardine – a new name that you didn’t just copy from somewhere else.
There are numerous generators that you can use to come up with your names. Chaotic Shiny has a few different types available, I’m going to list some here for you to plunder.
Fantasy Name Generator – What is says on the tin. Will generate fantasy names and gives you the ability to choose gender.
Modern Name Generator – Will generate modern names, giving the option to choose gender.
Name Jumbler – This will take a name you give it, and give you a ton of other names, varying in length, using the letters from the name you entered. Warning: Some of these names are complete nonsense.
Name Mixer – AKA the language mixer. It will take the name you put it, and substitute letters and some other pretty cool stuff to generate awesome fantasy names.
There are of course many more generators out there, these are just a few that I thought I’d list for you, as I have used them before. I hope they are of some help!
There is of course the option to just pants it – come up with a name on the fly… but that is how you end up with names like Meely Rainwater (something I just typed out).
Happy naming! Have you got any other tips?