Writing Fiction: How to come up with character names

I asked “The Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer’s Guild” on Facebook (which is the most active and most responsive out of all the writing groups I’ve joined) if they struggle with coming up with character names.

The poll is single selection per person so there are no duplicates. I asked this question on December 7, 2019 and here are the results as of December 27, 2019.

Character names poll

The last one, “I make other people do it so idk ๐Ÿ˜› ” I put in there with serious intent actually. Maybe some co-authors don’t come up with their own character names, right?

The results are pretty interesting, I have to say. I was expecting more people to say they have a nightmarish time coming up with character names because in the group itself, I have seen many people complaining about how hard it is or asking if their character name is good enough.

This shows that yes, coming up with character names can be daunting, but many people have found some good ways to come up with character names. Some people have shared their methods in the comments, so I will share those here as well ๐Ÿ™‚

Keep in mind, these are not the ultimate tried and true solutions. These are just some ways which you can use to come up with character names. There are always variations of these methods as you can always mash them together or add your own personal tweaks.


First,

here are some ways I have come up with character names:

look up names using

Letters of the Alphabet

you haven’t used for names yet. If you have none, use letters that you don’t use for names often. Some for me are usually e, h, i, j, k and n, o, q, u, w, x, y, z


look up

Baby Names on Google

Variations: looking up names with specific meanings, or a specific type (scientist, doctor, teacher, sorcerer, magician, neutral, a personality trait, actor, singer, performer, Halloween, Christmas, religious, outer space, anime, etc., you name it, whatever, they probably have it.)


Stare at the Keyboard

and sound out letters together like a baby learning to speak

“Frewwww….ty? Tee? Polion? Po and Lion? Hmm…”


Google Translate

specific words into different languages

variation: translate one word into two different languages and then mix ‘n’ mash those two translated words together


Mix ‘n’ Mash

your favorite names. Maybe you have two names you just adore. Mix ’em up ๐Ÿ˜€

Julie + Annie = Julannie, Juliannie, Anjulie, Anili, Anuju, Anju, etc.

variation: you can use this method together with any of the other methods especially if you have more than one of anything.


Second,

here are some other methods you can try:

(quoted from members of “The Sci-fi & Fantasy Writer’s Guild” on Facebook)

character name generators, people you’ve known (change them around, of course), and places/things for last names. Use last names as first names and vice versa ~ Lynn Marie de Lioncourt


fantasynamegeneratorsย ~ Krystal Tomkins

(there are many character name generator websites catering to many genres and many specific occasions. If you need a pirate name, they’ve got it.)


use behindthename.com and filter by name origin ~ Frances White

(Out of the 17 comments I received, two separate people talked about Behind the Name, a website that looks into the history of hundreds of names from various countries.)


the “complete cast and crew” of a random movie on IMDb, Another thing I do is choose a normal word, like “cheese,” and tweak it (e.g. to “Chez” or “Kese”) – sometimes selecting a word that reflects the character. ~ Kathy Trueman


Already quite an exhaustive list of various methods you can use to come up with character names. If you have anything that you have done that is not on this list, leave a comment below ๐Ÿ™‚

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