Writing Q&A Number 6

Question 6

From Shana:

How do you come up with names for your characters? I know there are all kinds of ways, but what have you used or heard about others using?
I most often use baby naming websites such as this one – http://babynames.net/all/english

As you can see on the left of the screen, you can browse by ethnicity and other categories. If you are writing historical fiction, you can see a list of names by popularity in a given decade.

Each name also includes its meaning, allowing you to choose a name that matches an attribute of your character or, as a twist, an attribute that your character despises.

This tool is also helpful for choosing names in a fantasy setting. It helps to pick old, no-longer-popular names from ancient languages like Greek, Hindu, Celtic, or Arabic. If one baby name site doesn’t help you, there are many more out there to try.

If you want strange names for fantasy creatures, I suggest using a fantasy-name generator such as this one – http://fantasynamegenerators.com/. When the site provides a name you like, it is probably best to tweak the name slightly to ensure that the name you choose is unique.

If anyone has ideas to add, be sure to comment, and if you have a question you would like to see addressed here, then send it to blogqa@daviscrossing.com.


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5 replies

  1. Thanks Mr. Davis! I’ve been trying to find good names for my latest story 🙂

  2. I’ve noticed many baby name websites have a lot of ads and popups. I would recommend having an adblocker turned on while browsing those to reduce the risk of clicking on a popup/ad and getting one’s computer infected.

  3. My favorite baby name website right now is http://www.behindthename.com. I focus a lot on meanings of names, so I like researching on this website. 🙂

  4. My favourite naming sites are:

    http://nameberry.com/ – This one is my absolute favourite! It’s very easy to navigate, and has a lot of great features, including a very fun and active forum that is used by authors as equally as moms. 🙂 My favourite feature of theirs though, is all of their lists. They have a very active blog where they post lists of names in certain categories (recent ones include: “TV Baby Names: Anna-Kat to Cable”, “16 Crazy Names You’re Going to Be Hearing a LOT More Of”) and then on the website itself, they have lists with many sub-lists, like “Names From the Arts” which has sub-lists like “Names Inspired by Authors”, “Classic Rock Baby Names”, “Designer Baby Names”, etc. They also have a searchable database, and each filed name has meaning, origin, pronunciation, popularity, famous people and pop culture references with the name, nicknames and variations of the names, and similar names! I’ve found most of my character’s names through this site.

    http://www.20000-names.com/ – This one is my second favourite. The site is a little more dated than Nameberry, but it has a lot of different categories, from different languages and cultures (from African to Aztec, Vietnamese to Yiddish), and a “special” categories section, including “Butterfly names”, “Dream names”, “Warrior names”, “Rainbow names”, “Evil names”, and many more!

    Other good ones:








    And other tips when you’re searching for names!

    I like having physical baby name books to flip through. Sometimes when you just don’t /know/ where to even start naming a character, it’s nice to have a book where you can just turn to a random page and start reading names there. I own a few, but most every library has them! (People may question if you’re pregnant if you check out a stack of ten baby name books, but that’s not any of their business! XD)

    If you’re looking for a certain kind of name, sometimes a wide spread search is easier than going through all of the sites like the ones I listed. Just google “Celestial baby names”, or “Irish baby names” or “fairy tale baby names”, “Victorian baby names”, etc!

    If the meaning of the name is really important to you, make sure you look names up in multiple places! The one site you find a name on might not be completely accurate, or maybe a name has more than one meaning. When trying to find a name for one of my characters in a Viking-based culture, I saw somewhere that “Ingrid” meant “Hero’s daughter” which was PERFECT for her. But then I later found that everywhere else was saying that Ingrid means “divinely beautiful”, and couldn’t find the “hero’s daughter” meaning again! Ingrid still worked fine for her, but if you feel really strongly about the meaning of a name being exactly perfect for your character, make sure you double and triple check your sources.

    Hope this was helpful! I love names a lot, and get very excited if you couldn’t tell. XD Good luck!

    ~ Hannah

  5. Good question!
    Two websites that I use the most are nameberry and Behind the Name.
    I actually just posted about naming characters on my blog, if you want to check it out.

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