If you’re anything like me, you can spend more time figuring out character names than outlining the entire story. Finding the right name is that important, and you don’t want to go with the first thing that comes to mind, especially for the important main characters.
Sometimes, it’s harder than others to find the right name. If you’re writing an especially dastardly character, it can be hard. I’m facing that problem now. Every time I think of a name, I can think of someone I know with that name, and I don’t want to use it.
It’s time to pull out some of my lesser-used methods of finding a character name. I figured since I struggle with character names, others likely do as well. I hope you find some of these useful!
Unique ways to find a name
Just how do you go about finding that perfect name? Grab a baby book or go to a baby name blog? Sure, you can do that if you want. But let’s look at some unique ways to find those names. In other words: Let’s have some fun!
Take a common name and change a letter
I’ve seen this used several times in fiction. Usually, it’s the first letter that’s changed, and in most cases, the name is really cool. The first one that comes to mind is Dyson from Lost Girl. Maybe Dyson really is a name (I’ve never heard of it aside from vacuums), but to me it sounds like Tyson with a D.
Combine two names
Along similar lines, you can combine two names, removing some of the letters. Think about some of the couples names who have been put together to make another. For example, I have a character named Stelena. Any Vampire Diaries fans recognize that? (Stefan and Elena.) Being that I’m a Delena fan (Damon and Elena), you can conclude that Stelena isn’t a favorite character.
Movie and TV credits
You may as well turn your movie and TV viewing time into productivity time. Have you ever noticed how many names are listed in the credits? Especially for movies. There are names from all nationalities, and you’re bound to be inspired by something you see.
Have you been to the Social Security Administration’s baby name list? You can find names listed by popularity for any given year, going back as far as 1880. Each list has the top 1,000 most popular names, so you can find a lot of names!
If you use Scrivener to compose your novels, they have a name generator tool built in. It’s not the greatest, but it does the job if you’re looking for something quick and easy. You don’t even have to leave your manuscript to find the name you’re looking for.
A great place to discover new and interesting names is on a pregnancy forum. Parents-to-be love to discuss possible names. You will find a wide assortment of the latest trendy names as well as some of the most original ones you’ve ever heard of.
Google lesser-used ethnic names. I write about Icelandic vampires, and as a result, I have found some great sites with long lists of Icelandic names. I have found some truly awesome ones that I’ve completely fallen in love with ~ and they’re so unique that most of my readers have never heard of them.
Since a lot of people who die are older, their names aren’t as popular now. (Though I do know of two kids named Meredith.) You can find some gems in the obits, although you can find a lot of those same names in the Social Security site mentioned above. The difference though, is that there are a lot of people who move into the country, and their names wouldn’t be on the SSA list, because only names of those born here are listed there.
What’s yours? Do you have a way to find character names that isn’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments! I would love to hear from you.
Image by Erik Daniel Drost