NaNoWriMo Prep #5 – Naming Your Characters

Before I start today’s post, I want to bring to your attention a book you might find useful for NaNo prepping. It’s called Fast Fiction – A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden. What’s especially interesting about this book is that Ms. Jaden is a NaNoWriMo alumni. Here’s a link to a Fact Fiction Printable sheet she’s provided on her website.

Here’s a website you might also find useful. It’s called How to Write a Book in 30 Days, a series presented by The Guardian.

Now, on to today’s post.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Or so sayeth fair Juliet to her Romeo.

But character names are pretty important. Names can tell us a lot about a character. They can resonate positively or negatively, either by the way they sound or look or just because when we were in fifth grade some guy named Percy was really mean to us.

Personally, I don’t spend that much time mulling over names for my characters. I try to use names that are appropriate for the genre, time period, culture, location, personality type but I don’t obsess over it.

The one thing I do try to avoid, however, are characters whose names start with the same letter and/or sound or look alike. Like John and Joan, for example.

That being said, however, I do have quite a few baby name books around my writing area.

Plus there is an overabundance of baby naming websites out on the web. Just type in “baby names” in your favorite search engine.

Today I’m going to share a few of my favorite baby names books and websites. There are also name generators out on the web that can generate names for elves, dwarves, whatever.

The Baby Name Wizard – A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for your Baby – Laura Wattenberg

This is one of my favorite baby name books because it categorizes name by styles. For example, under the category Charms and Graces you’ll find names like Bonnie and Grace, Lavender and Pearl. Under the category Last Names First you’ll find Archer, Baker, Chandler, etc. Under Porch Sitters, names the author defines as having been out of circulation for quite some time, you’ll find Elvira, Homer, Mildred and Virgil. The author also a nifty website.

The Name Finder at the website lets you put in specific criteria for a name. So if you know you want your character’s name to begin with a, not end in z and have three syllables, you can specific that.  –

What’s in a Name? -Surnames of America –  This book is out of print. I actually found it in the book section at my local Goodwill, but I use it quite a bit. Books of surnames are not as plentiful as books of first names but there are some out there.

New Dictionary of American Family Names – Another book that’s out of print but Amazon has copies for a penny with $3.99 shipping.

The Character Naming Sourcebook – Sherrilyn Kenyon  – This is a great book for character names as it’s specifically written for writers. Not only does it lists names from cultures around the world, but it also has short articles written by authors about their character naming experiences. Highly recommended!

Hey Baby! What’s your Sign? – The Astrological Baby Name Book – Nancy Burke –  I’m one of those writers who may not draw up astrological charts for my character but I usually know what their sign is. This book is helpful if you know you’re character is a Pisces, for example, and want to find an appropriate name for a Piscean. The names are based on how they relate to that particular astrological sign. The books suggests for a female Pisces, among others, the name Pirene, which is Greek. Pierne was a daughter of a river god and Pisces rules large bodies of water.

This is book is more of use to me if I’m writing speculative fiction such as fantasy and I want the character’s names to mean something and also because of the exotic nature of many of the names.

Name Generator Websites

The Character Name Generator –  The site not only generates names based upon gender and ethnicity but also provides a profile of the character based upon the MBTI, which I’ll talk about in later posts. Very  handy if you need to come up with a character quick and, when you’re doing NaNo, trust me, that will happen pretty often! If you cursor down the website’s page, you’ll find even more name generators.

Fake Name Generator –  This website allow you to now only create a fake name, but a fake identity. Of course, you absolutely do not want to use this site to do anything you shouldn’t be doing, but it’s useful for coming up with a character who has not only a name, but a car, an occupation, blood type, favorite color, etc.

Character Name Generator for Creative Writers  This is a pretty basic name generator but a good tool if you’re in a pinch for a name.

And finally, here’s a link to really interesting article. It talks about how certain names connect around age. This information can prove useful if you’re naming characters spread out over generations. Or if, for some reason, you want to name your fifteen your old character Ethel because that was her great-grandmother’s name and it’s family tradition or something.


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