Naming Your Characters

Naming your characters is just so important.

Don’t you think?

Your character’s name carries so much weight on its back. It determines where they’re from, their history, maybe even if someone reads the book or not.

In this post, I’ll be sharing the names of some of my characters, some character names from books I love, and recommending where to find good names.

Let’s begin!

One of my favorite parts of writing is the characters. Think about it: You get to create whoever you want. You get to make your character do whatever you want! Give them superpowers you’ve always wanted. Give them a ton of siblings, or none at all. Let them move across the world. Have them be bilingual, trilingual, quintilingual! Make them climb Mount Everest, run marathons, or sew quilts. Laugh and sing and dance and smile and cry and yell.

And you can do all of this just by

typing a word on a computer screen.

I don’t think it gets much cooler than that.

Maybe you read the first sentence of this post and thought to yourself, pfft. Naming your characters is easy, Olivia. Just scribble down Mary or Jane and call it a day. Can you see now why the character’s name is so important? You bring your character to life. They need a name!

I’m going to share some of the names of my characters, and explain why I named them what I did. 😀 These are all the names of characters in short stories that are admittedly plotless, but nevertheless fun to write.

  • Coral: In Coral’s story, she lives in Hawaii with her family full of surfers. (Thanks for the inspiration, Anna.) I named her Coral because I wanted an name that instantly brought the image of an ocean to mind. In her story, she explains that her parents named her Coral because she was born in Australia near the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Joy: Joy is an aspiring artist who is instead forced to work at her parents’ inn and is unsure how she’ll ever follow her dreams. I chose the name Joy because of the irony- here’s the prologue of her story.

When you’ve got a name like mine, everyone expects you to be happy.

But the thing is, it’s hard to be cheerful all the time when you live in a one-light town with your family that runs an inn and you can’t follow your dreams because your parents and four other siblings are standing in your way.

Last February, that’s exactly how I viewed my life as Joy Ann Starling.

And then something happened that changed everything.

  • Faith: Faith is part of a family band- her entire family lives in Nashville and sings and plays instruments together. She and her siblings are all named after famous country music stars- she’s named after Faith Hill.
  • Georgia: I haven’t developed Georgia’s character too much, but I specifically named her because it puts an image in my head of a Southern girl. She’s raised by her grandmother, lives in a house with big oak trees surrounding it, and loves chocolate cake. It’s probably just me, but I think her name describes her perfectly.
  • Katarina: Katarina is one of the two main characters in the World War 2 diary entry story I’m writing. I think she’s the only one who actually has a plot that’s going somewhere. 😉 I originally had her named Juliette, but with some urging from World-War-2-Expert-Anna, I changed it to a more German name. I like it because she can be called Kat as a nickname, so it doesn’t have to sound so formal.

I have so many more characters with meaningful names, but those are some of the more obvious ones as far as connections go. I put a lot of thought into naming my characters. It’s not as if you can’t rename them after you’ve begun a story, but I find it hard to do so, because you’ve already gotten attached to the old name. (As I discovered thanks to the Katarina/Juliette saga.)

Now, for character names I admire from books.

  • Hermione: All I need to say is, will anybody ever hear the name Hermione and not think of Harry Potter?
  • Annabeth: From the Percy Jackson series, I love Annabeth. And her name is just awesome! It’s completely original and different from any other name.
  • Truly Lovejoy: Truly from Absolutely Truly also has an unforgettable name. Kind of like my character Joy, her name is brought back up throughout the story as being interesting, in some cases thought “weird,” and I have to admit the book wouldn’t be as good if the character had been named something else. Absolutely Claire just doesn’t have the same ring. 😉
  • Allie Finkle: Allie Finkle is the star of her own series, which I was completely obsessed with in about third grade. I love her name because it’s just so normal. The entire series is just about a normal girl’s life. The books just couldn’t have been as relatable if her name was something exotic like Anastasia or Drisella. (Okay, she wouldn’t have been named after Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. But you get it, right?)

There are also times in books where I don’t feel as if the character’s name fits. It just seems like a throwaway name, one that doesn’t have meaning or originality, but just does the job. I’m not going to name specific books, because I never like to publicly put down books (unless I’m doing a review), but it does happen.

By naming your character right, you can be sure that no one will ever feel that way about your writing. Finally, I’ll be sharing some tips for finding character names!

Use inspiration from other books. The name “Jess” is not copyrighted just because Heather Vogel Frederick named one of the MDBC that.

But on that topic, don’t mirror image a book character, though. I don’t think a book about Parry Hotter, a boy who goes to Wogharts, is going to go over that well. 😉

Let a name begin a story. I like the name Elaine. I want to write a story about a girl named Elaine. Then, think of her story using the name. Elaine sounds like the name of a girl with a British accent. Let a small detail give you more. Ooh, Elaine with a British accent can go to a boarding school in Boston! Then, build a story. But she misses England and hasn’t made any friends in the United States. I just completely improvised and made a story off the name Elaine. That was actually kind of fun!

If you have an idea of what you’d like the name to be, Google is your best friend. I often find myself typing something along the lines of “girl names beginning with m.” Or, “German names.” “Exotic names.” Even just “girl names.”

I’m sure there are apps that generate names, though I don’t use them- but if you’d like to use one, I bet that resource is available.

Finding websites from a Google search that list baby girl/boy names is honestly my favorite resource for names. It’s almost impossible to not find one that fits. One website that I find helpful is Nameberry, though it’s not necessarily my go-to. I just click on whatever the search generates me.

I hope reading this inspired you to take a look at your characters’ names. Do you like them? Do they really fit? Is there a meaning behind them?

I also hope all the tips were helpful. 🙂 I would love to hear about your character names in the comments. How do you think of names? What are some of your favorites? Do any of yours have a story behind them?

-Olivia♥

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