Names are important, as we all know. Some of us wish we could change ours (especially our middle names), while others are madly in love with theirs. Character names in fiction are important too. They give us that special something we need to identify personalities. Can you imagine Philias Fogg or Fagan going by any other moniker? When I write a story, I usually like coming up with names for my characters, but occasionally I hit a blank. What are some resources can we use to find the very best names to express what our characters are about without going overboard? Bad example: Mr. Goodguy.
An endless source would be the phone book, but I’ve recently realized that some people don’t have phone books because they use cell phones. The same person who revealed this to me likes to use Facebook, although it’s more limited. We can buy books with names, but those are usually more contemporary, and of course, we need to use names that suit the time periods in which our stories are set. A great way to do that is to visit an old cemetery. There’s one less than a block from my house, and when I pass by it, I read some of the names written on the tombstones, occasionally noting unusual ones. If you’re writing about the area the cemetery is in, you can garner some names you know people used in the vicinity.
Sometimes it’s interesting to use names with a hidden meaning that’s right for a certain character. For instance, we had a Siamese cat we named Coco, mostly because of his dark brown points. When I looked up “Coco” in the dictionary, I learned it’s from a Portuguese word meaning “bogeyman,” which suited our cat perfectly, since for a little while he looked like he wore a dark brown mask.
And then there’s a resource we haven’t always had: Google. Just type in “Names,” and you should be given the option of several nationalities, as well as Biblical names, and I even checked on space names not long ago. www.behindthename.com is a good site which separates masculine and feminine names and gives their definitions. Another website is meaning-of-names.com, which has each name’s etymology as well as rankings, comments, ratings, and other statistics.
Lastly, none of the character names in a story should be similar, so the reader won’t be confused, and it’s a good idea to not have many of their first names start with the same letter. As you can see, there are several methods we can use for naming our characters. But whichever you choose, have fun!
About the Author
A South Carolina native, Dale currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and three cats. With several family members involved in writing, Dale soon found herself drifting in that direction, eventually joining her high school newspaper staff. Continuing her interest in writing after graduating from Anderson College and the University of South Carolina, she penned articles and stories, as well as poetry, eventually starting a novel. Since then, she has written several novels, both for teens and adults. She also loves music and dance, and has participated in several musicals and even one movie. She can be found on Twitter: @Dale Rogers, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mocha.rogers.5