Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

July 23, 2009

How Do You Come Up With Character Names?

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:55 AM

Choosing good names for our characters can be a challenge. Does the name fit the character’s personalty? Or perhaps you go to the Net and look for ethnic names if you’re building an ethnic character. Or do you just open up the white pages? Maybe some other way?

Take the poll and let us know.



  1. I think the name should reflect the character. There’s nothing worse than trying to make a character fit a name when it isn’t right. I’ve had stories where things just weren’t working, it all felt forced. I change one name, and suddenly everything flows again.

    Names are important. They bring nuances to the character. Get the name wrong and nothing works.

    Comment by Jaleta Clegg — July 24, 2009 @ 10:07 AM | Reply

  2. It’s important that the characters all have different first names, not beginning with the same letters, I think. It’s easier to follow the plot then, especially if you have a lot of characters and are switching back and forth often, like David Baldacci does.

    When I hear cool names, I’ll write them down. Also, if I’m going back in time to the ’60s, I’ll pick names that were popular in that era, like Mary, Betsy and Sandy. Sometimes I’ll research first names and surnames online; it’s so interesting to learn where a last name originated.

    Comment by Lisa Cunningham — July 25, 2009 @ 9:15 AM | Reply

  3. I use a variety of naming methods, depending on the story:
    – By Personality of the character, which is definitely the most important
    – Typos (e.g., if I mistype “the” as “teh” a lot, I might keep “Teh” in my name repository for an alien, planet, etc.)
    – Choose a theme from the plot and find a name that means something related to that theme
    – By readability and syllables; if the name does not have one obvious way of being pronounced or, in general is more than 2 syllables, I will not use it

    Comment by Dori Maloney — July 25, 2009 @ 9:46 AM | Reply

  4. Sometimes I like names that appear unpronounceable and about 8 syllables long, but definitely not for main characters. I do write SF/F and want the names to be different from normal, accepted names. Fishing around in other cultures works well. Names from India and Africa are really fun.

    Comment by Jaleta Clegg — July 25, 2009 @ 5:22 PM | Reply

  5. My characters usually suggest their own names. But then I check the name is appropriate for the era I’m writing in and often check a name dictionary to make sure there’s no meaning that’s counter to the character, eg the Welsh name Gethin means ‘swarthy’ so wouldn’t be appropriate on a blond geek.

    Comment by Emma Lee — July 31, 2009 @ 12:23 PM | Reply

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