How do you come up with names for your characters?

United States
February 12, 2007 4:22am CST
I was wondering if anyone had any specific websites or tips on how to come up with names from your characters. I don't want mine to be too commonly used names. I've been just picking some unique names at random, but I didn't know if there was a good website that had a list of different names and meanings or something. I thought I'd heard of one before, but I can't remember the web address.
1 person likes this
6 responses
• United States
12 Feb 07
Be careful that the names you choose aren't too unique. You want your readers to identify with your characters on many levels. John, Frank, Joe, Margie, Heather, Bobby, and Christine are all good names for characters. You can use baby name books and sites for ideas. Even your phone book is a great resource. I like to read the closing credits on movies for the names. Magazines and newspapers are good resources too. Look at all your favorite TV shows. What are the character names? Movies, too. Jack Ryan. Rocky Balboa. Samantha Carter. Catherine Willows. Daniel Jackson. All good names and not too odd. Easily remembered, and that's important.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Feb 07
Thanks those are a lot of good suggestions. But wouldn't using a name for television or a movie get a whole lot of copyright issues?
• United States
13 Feb 07
Change the names. Jack Bryant. Catherine Williams. Don't use the exact names as TV or movie or book characters. Those are all copyrighted. And use their personality and character traits to help you give them names. Charles is one kind of person. Bunky is another. Mildred, Tiffany. I wouldn't name the butler Rocky. I wouldn't name the surfer Horace. Naming your characters can be great fun. And if you decide to change their names halfway through, go ahead. Sometimes, they change as you write them, and the name no longer fits.
1 person likes this
• United States
14 Feb 07
Thanks that's what I thought you meant, but I wasn't sure. I might have to try that although using a name like Buffy would probably cause problems too. :) But as long as I use one that isn't too obvious it shouldn't be a problem.
@cher913 (25890)
• Canada
12 Feb 07
I heard one writer that uses street names (that way you can't get sued) because i heard about an author that randomly picked a name (so she thought) and it turned out to actually be a person's name. The person sued and got half the author's royalties (may be an urban legend, not sure) Anyways, you can get street names off of map quest. Good luck!
1 person likes this
• United States
12 Feb 07
That's an urban legend. Sharing only the same name with a real life person isn't enough to sue over libel or defemation of character, the only two charges that could possibly be brought against an author in those situations. Coincidences happen, and unless a character shares the same address, job, description, hobbies, upbringing, and everything else there's no case.
1 person likes this
@patgalca (14557)
• Orangeville, Ontario
12 Feb 07
Audrey - Our life-size doll Audrey
One of the ideas that came up on the writing board was to take the name of one of your pets and the name of the street you live on. I never had pets as a kid but my Dad loved to call people either Fred or Audrey if he didn't know their names, or to tease them. We had a life-size stuffed doll that sat in an unused bathtub. She was named Audrey. So a character name I came up with is Audrey Highland. It would also make a nice pen name.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Feb 07
That's a good idea using street names, but yeah I agree with the others that it must be an urban legend. They would have no case, a lot of people have the same name.
@misskatonic (3727)
• United States
12 Feb 07
I like to go for private jokes or references when I name characters. Like I have a Christ-figure who's last name is 'Bogden'. Bogden means 'son of God'. I generally go on what the name means more than anything else - even if it's a common name, a common name on an interesting and unique character stands out. I generally don't go *too* unique - but a lot of my fiction takes place in urban or historical settings. I use the website 20,000 Names for looking up meanings.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Feb 07
Thanks I really like the idea of using meanings in the names as references. I've thought about doing something like that in the last names, we'll just see what I come up with.
@k1tten (2321)
• United States
12 Feb 07
Drat, I actually wrote an article about this but it isn't published yet. Once it is though I'll send you the link. For now though here's a few tips. Look through baby name books and baby name sites. These have a few interesting names but probably none that you want to pick. You can combine names so they work out well. I did that with a few of my characters and it was quite interesting with what I came up with. There's a site that I found about a week ago while looking for a name that ment moon. I found lunarberry.com/names It has an amazing catagory of names that have their meanings listed. Browse through there and find something you like. I hope this helps. Hopefully my article will get published soon so I can give you a few more links that I had on there.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Feb 07
Thanks for the link. Once you have your article published I would love to get a link to it also. Good luck with it.
• United States
13 Feb 07
Did you ever buy a house or need to get your credit report? There were pages and pages of people with similar names as we have, (which I thought were not too common at all!) Do you have any idea how many people have the same name you want to use for your character(s)?? Still, I agree with the poster that says unless you describe their every personal detail, I don't believe you can be sued for libel. And, after all, that is what makes writing believable, and how your readers can identify with your characters, when the names fit the characters. Have a wonderful day and good luck in your work!
@WebMann (4732)
• Canada
12 Feb 07
Well I didn't have to do much thinking to get my username, WebMann. I live on the Web and I web site designer and I am a man, so that seemed to fit. My one brother is a fitness instructor so he chose FittMann and my other brother is a graphic designer, and uses a MAC so he is MacMann Really creative aren't we. :)