I’m quite new to being an indie author, so I’m still learning, I do read a few blog posts from others or do a LOT of researching on the internet into best ways to do it, but most of the time I learn along the way.
But one thing I do find that irritates me is coming up with new character names! I wonder how other authors do it, so I figured I’d write about how I personally come up with new character names.
Well, first off, I have a few ‘names’ that are my favourites, don’t ask me why, as some are just random and just stuck with me for no reason, others there are a deeper story that I cannot go into depth about in a simple blog post!
But some names that stuck with me are ‘Alex’ – I love the idea it can be used as either a female character or a male character and I also love the idea of the character being thought of as male and then, whoops, no she’s female! My mistake!
‘Jason’ stuck with me, that’s a long story! But that name probably features a lot in my work – he’s a main character in my book “It’s My Mistake” and he’s also a small character in my upcoming “Rose Garden Sanatorium”. Different people though of course.
Other names that stuck are ‘Taylor’, ‘Hensley’, ‘Morgan’ and ‘Alyssa’.
Don’t ask about the Hensley, I just came across it and it stuck with me.
But of course, stories usually involve a lot more characters and not every book can have the SAME names! So how do I come up with names?
Well, there are four things I do.
- I make up a name, think of a name that’s common, or maybe not so common, and as long as I don’t know someone that doesn’t like me, by that name, that they might think ‘hey, she’s used my name!’ – So, some generic ones I’ve used, ‘Dan’ (I know lots of Dan’s, but I figured Dan is too much of a common name so it doesn’t worry me), ‘Sam’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Olivia’ to name a few.
- I research names! My novel ‘It’s My Mistake’ I used names from disney books/films for two of the female characters! Alice being one, I wonder if you can figure out the other?
Rose Garden Sanatorium has a LOT more research into names, one of the main characters ‘Belphegor’ is a name from Peter Binsfeld who created a list in the 1500s, based on the seven deadly sins, Belphegor is one of the Seven Princes. There are other demons too that I’ve ‘borrowed’ their names and used the information supplied to shape their characters. Even demon species (Legion for example).
- I use names that mean something to me, for example, the main character ‘Taylor Brown’, I ‘borrowed’ her last name because I am a big fan of Dan Brown’s books. Another character ‘Mr Cox’ because I am a fan of Prof. Brian Cox (and physics/astronomy of course!), and I’ve also used names from close friends!
- Random name generator! They’re ace! Want a common name – no problem. Here’s a list! Want an uncommon name – no problem! Here’s a list! Want a sci-fi name – no problem! Here’s a list! Want a vampire name – I think you get the point!
Regardless of this though, I still find it difficult to come up with names. I feel that I don’t want to be too boring with selecting names (i.e. Dan is such a common name) but I don’t want to go over-board and use such wild and crazy names that the story isn’t believable!
It also depends on the type of story – using common names in a sci-fi book might not be very clever, but using them in a story that is more real-world might be okay.
I also try to use names that aren’t typically British – e.g. Tiffany is more an American name, so I deliberately used that in ‘It’s My Mistake’ to give that character more of an American background. Although I tend to avoid any discriptions that label the character as American other than the name because I don’t like the idea of singling out people based on their background! There is one character in ‘It’s My Mistake’ that is actually African but I’ve not once mentioned they are black. Not because I was worried about discrimination, but because I didn’t see the need.
Anyway! So, that’s how I come up with character names!
It works for me!
And to be honest, sometimes if I haven’t quite figured out what the character should be called, I just add little [name] tags in, continue writing the story and fill in the gaps afterwards! (e.g. [name] walked in to the dank dark bar and was instantly struck by a rancid smell…)