Creating Character Names

A large subject of discussion in the writing world is character names. To some, names come easy, Other people have a much harder time.

I feel I’m one of the first people. I have hundreds of names in my books that are really good. Some of them are simple. Others not, and have some history.

Most of my really good, made up names come to me randomly. A few of mine date back to a book I wrote when I was seven or eight, titled Life Vs. Death. One I’ll just plain out say: Julavin.* This name is making it into my current trilogy. Another name from LVD is making it into Bayonet. Three or so other names from Heir of Elves are in Bayonet, and another couple names from The Griffin Lord are in it too.

What good is that? Are you supposed to just wait for good names to come to you? Look back at your old work and hope you hit a jackpot? No, though it’s the best method

One name, Naoni,* came from a designation I like a lot, Naomi. I like the name, but wanted to change it a little bit. So I through in another N. Boom. There you have it. That’s the second way of getting good names; taking real ones and making them your own.

Sometimes, however, you just need to sit there and think of names. You can’t always wait for them to pop up in a cloud of purple smoke. You need to create. That’s where you sit down and build names from the beginning. Experiment with letters and sounds, and don’t stop until you have several good ones.

Before we leave the discussion of making up names, I’d like to point out something I’ve seen a lot in fiction. It’s the way the name sounds. Sure, several names look great on paper, and your brain works around the loopholes and you’ve got a great title. However, I often read names aloud from my favorite books, and find they sound strange, or are even more difficult to say than to read. So make sure your names sound OK.

I have one more method of name crafting that doesn’t involve experimenting with various designations or waiting for them to spontaneously arrive. That’s called using real names.

We hear names all the time. It’s inevetible. We live in a world where everybody has one. Even more they have middle names, surnames, nicknames, pen names, and insulting names. It’s just about hearing the right names.

Alright, so I’ll zoom back to a Wayne Thomas Batson example, even though I use him a lot. In The Errant King, a main character is named Lochlan, which is actually a real name. I first saw it in the acknowledgments, then I did a little more research on it. I found that though mostly with an extra N at the end, it is very real. Yet it seems so, fantastical, because it’s both uncommon and beautiful to look at on paper.

There are myriads of real but uncommon names out there. Wolfgang. Mozart, was it? Bridget. If you’ve seen The Wild or read the play The Crucible, you’ve heard it. Lem. A simple name from The Yearling. Wes. Heartland!

All of these names are or will be in my book. They’re great names. I have tons more: Jed, Nicks, Don, Emmet, Jay, Gail, and more.

Where do I get these names?

There are tons of ways. Movies are one. Listen for them. From Frozen, Elsa might be a good name. I saw that in a Batson book before the movie even came out, so it’s real. Also, in movies look at the end and beginning credits. I mentioned Wolfgang before, right? That was from the beginning credits of Aristocats by Disney from only yesterday. I came up with the credits method then.

Baby name books. Though I’ve never done this, I know Gail Carson Levine and probably countless others use them. When I wanted a name for my upcoming Western, I looked up “western girl names” and the name I got was for babies!

Normal books. Fiction and nonfiction. As long as you’re sure that they’re not the author’s own, you can use them, or change them a bit and make them your own. It’s not plagiarism if the world already uses them to begin with!

Life. Like I said, you simply hear names all the time. Don came from a conversation my Dad had with another man. I think Mitch did too. You hear names like Scottie and Silas all the time, and even more uncommon ones like Quinn and Skye too!

Another thing you might like to do is have friends who can be name scouts. That is, have them remember random names they hear in life too, and have them tell you. That’s another way I haven’t tried, but you can be the first!

My last tip in character names…be daring!

I use words as character names, and even names from fairy tales. I have both a Geston and a Belle, ’cause neither name has a copyright surrounding it. Know what? I also have a Thor and a Midas. Try don’t go as daring as Rumplestiltskin, Pinocchio, or Grumpy though!

Be daring when you make up names too. Not every girl name needs to begin and end with an A, E, or L. Try Q’s, H’s and J’s. Be daring with your surnames. They don’t always need to be compound words or ones that sound like words that describe them. Turn French and add prefixes like Di or Le, or your own like Vel or Bazork! Make a Q’Brian instead of an O’Brian, or a CeDonald instead of McDonald! You can even try suffixes if you want to be more original. Garby-Vren if you wish! You have no idea how bold I’ve had to be in Bayonet. OK, so maybe it’s not that bad, but I hope my readers like it!

I have names from castles I wrote about, old pen names I wanted, my dad’s email address, the Bible…the sources are endless.

Or you can just use a name generator.

So that’s all on crafting names. What about using them? Well, that’s for another post, but I have a lot less to say about that. I hope this was helpful.

*Many of the names in this post feel free to use, for they’re not my own. However, these two names, Naoni and Julavin, are original, and I’d like to keep them that way. Please do not steal them, or I’ll have to go all copyright on you! Just kidding.

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One response to “Creating Character Names

  1. This was a great read, Harry! Your names are awesome! I’m the same way with just coming up with names. Sometimes just trying out different sounds, consanents, and vowels and slamming them together in various ways works well too. Thanks again for sharing your insights on character names!

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