How I name my characters

A question that often comes up in the reading and writing community is, “How do you name your characters?”.

For some, naming their characters is one of the hardest parts of writing a novel. To others, it’s just about the easiest bit. I think I fall somewhere in between — as I suspect most authors do.

How I name my characters

Here’s how it works for me.

1. My characters name themselves

Truly, they do. Sometimes. You see, a lot of my characters come to me fully formed. They simply walk into my life exactly when I need them. Some even show up early, and I have to tell them to please take a seat in the waiting room. I might even offer them a drink, if I’m feeling truly generous. 😉

That said, I’ve had to deal with one perfectly obnoxious git who flat-out refused to tell me his name. Didn’t want to show me who he really was, either. In the end I got so annoyed with him, I decided to turn him into a caricature of myself, and gave him a name that was a play on my own name. No sooner had I done that, then finally he came to life and told me his real name. He even had the nerve to sound affronted. Go figure!

2. I play with words or names

Playing with words and names is a fun and creative way to come up with names for characters when you’re stuck, and works really well for creating fantasy names. What’s even better, it’s a game you can play anytime. Anywhere. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. Or your smartphone.

Let’s, for example, take the word “girandole” (just a random word I picked from the dictionary). How many fantasy names can you make using just the letters of this word?

Gira, Doli, Nardi, Dirna, Elodi, Riln, Dring, Rina, Eland, Arend, Arn, Orl… I could go on for a while. Actually, I’ll save these in my “Names” file. They might come in handy some day — and some of them are even real names.

3. Name generators

Contrary to what some might think, using a name generator is not bad, and does not mean you lack creativity. Those things are out there for a reason. If you are having trouble coming up with a good name for a character, you are not alone! Don’t hesitate to use them if you feel the need to do so.

My personal favourite is Fantasy Name Generators. They’ve got more choice than you’ll likely ever need, and I honestly can’t sing its praises enough. That said, I hardly ever use the names that come up as is. I like to tweak them a little, to suit my story and setting.

So there you have it. My three favourite ways to name my characters. How do you name yours?

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