What’s In A Name?

Ah. It feels good to be back.

Let’s hop right into a bit of mental massaging, shall we?



Those sounds you make to identify someone, something, or someplace. Since I’ve dived back into my novel writing,  coming up with names for my characters has become a renewed source of fun.

There’s just something . . .  fulfilling about finding the right name for a character. A villain named Maurice just doesn’t have the same “oomph” as a Max or Magnus. The right name fits the character like a glove, and you can imagine other characters referring to him or her in anger or hate.

Yet names don’t have to be complex, polysyllabic affairs either. Who would ever suspect a name like Walter could inspire sympathy, respect, and fear, but it happened in Breaking Bad.

I tend to find names in a variety of places. I once found the name for an antagonist while watching a documentary on the history of cocaine. The expert who was interviewed had an intriguing name, so I opened up a chapter of my novel and tried it out. And wouldn’t you know it: it fit!

J.K. Rowling has mentioned that she researched names by scouring phonebooks, which sounds like an excellent idea.

So how do you find names for your characters?


17 comments on “What’s In A Name?

  1. I tend to stumble across first and last names and mash different combos together in the hopes of them sounding decent, kind of like playing with Lego. Without the risk of stepping on a brick, of course.

    I’m trying to do superhero fiction too and more often than not I turn to ’80s song titles for monikers, if only for placeholders that may become permanent (not that that’s the only source of the names I’ve come up with).

  2. I don’t really know where my names come from; like my story ideas they grow from the depths of my mind. And no, that’s not me trying to sound profound or deep; it’s more like dark and scary in there. I’m glad the thoughts and ideas come out, I wouldn’t want to have to go in after them.

  3. In my first novel, I used names of people in my life who have similar traits as my characters, but by my second, I ran out of those reference names. Now every time I hear a name I like I write it down. Current project names; Emilynn (Em), Leonardo (Leo) and Sebastian (Bass). And, for some reason, my names have to have easy nicknames.

  4. Well it’s about f-n time…..

    I’ve always been bad at picking realistic names. I’ve recently noticed that a lot of good fictional names border on nick names- seems realer. I once thought that it was a good idea to wait to name characters until after finishing writing, but I feel that giving a character a name can alter/dynamicize their personality.

    Tough job is the name game. My go-to is “Yoda.”

    • “Yoda decided to end his gay love affair with Yoda. Yoda turned his affections instead to Yoda.” 😛

      I agree with the nick namey names. Names that are too formal sound out of place sometimes.

  5. I have a couple of baby name books. I try to match what the name means with what my idea of the character is. Then I start mashing up the spelling. This works really well when I need exotic names for my fantasy or si-fi. My normal character sometimes get drawn from a hat. (more than not those change by the end of the story)

  6. I like to write from the b-movie/horror /comedy side. Names like Dr Terrors House Beauty, give me funny names that describes the character Im creating ,Like news Horrorspondent Holly Horrir.

  7. Hi Mike,
    Welcome back. I am WAY behind in my blogging, but catching up little by little. Fun post. We have just been going through a historic cemetery, and found some excellent names there.

    • Hey Naomi!

      Yes, you need to get back to blogging! I miss reading your posts. 🙂

      A historic cemetery? That’s pretty brilliant. I would have never thought of that. I’m sure you can find some pretty interesting/rare names that way too.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’ll be returning the favor very soon. . .

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