Friday, March 22

5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names

5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names
One thing I've always envied about J.K. Rowling is her ability to create awesome character names.

Well, that, and her wildly successful stories, but that's a post for another time.

Naming Characters

I have trouble naming characters.

I'll either fall in love with a name that everyone else on the planet hates with a burning passion or I won't be able to think of anything.

And so it was with great interest I read How to Name Your Characters by The Magic Violinist (and with a name like that how could I not be intrigued).

Before we get into naming, though, we need to ask: What are we looking for in a name? What characteristics must it have? TMV writes:

a. The name "needs to be unique".
b. The name needs to be memorable.
c. Your readers--and you, if you narrate the audiobook--need to be able to pronounce it.

One of my all-time favorite names is "Albus Dumbledore" from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. "Rubeus Hagrid" is pretty great too.

Oh, and Dudley Dursley and, my number one favorite, "Severus Snape". That name communicates a lot about the character. "Snape" sounds like "snake" and when I say the whole thing I almost hisss.

But I'm getting carried away! I won't give you all 5 of TMV's suggestions, just two and some links. I heartily recommend you read her article over at The Write Practice.

Remember Your Friends

TMV writes,
I often base my characters off of my friends because my friends are so interesting! When I do that, sometimes my characters end up with my friends’ names. Maybe not their exact names, but pretty close. Kirsten will become Kristen, Sophia will become Selena, and Sarah will become Sara.
Another tip someone gave me was to look at the names in movie credits; while I've never borrowed one whole, it is fun to mix and match first and last names. Often while I'm doing this a great name will come to me; almost as though it chose me rather than vice versa.

Also, TV credits work well, as do names from personal ads. Also I've often looked at statistical data, especially when I'm curious about what names were common in a certain year, or when I wanted a regional name.

Baby Naming Books And Sites

Where would writers be without baby naming sites? I shudder to think.

Fortunately, there are many sites on the web offering oodles of names, and even their meanings and the frequency of the name in different populations.

And all for free!

Here is a site I've used in the past: Behind The Name.
Also, there are some great random name generators out there, in fact Behind The Name has one (and, no, I'm not an affiliate!).

Just Google "random name generator" and you'll find a lot of fun, time-sucking, links.
How do you choose a name? What is your favorite character name?

Other articles you might like:

- Joe Konrath says KDP Select Made Him $100,000 In 6 Weeks
- Book Cover Design: Free Programs For Choosing A Color Palette (Adobe Kuler & Color Scheme Designer)
- Different Kinds Of Story Openings: Shock And Seduction

Photo credit: "the smiths:these things take time" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Naming characters (and babies!) is one of the more stressful parts of life! I would be reluctant to name characters after people I know in real life. I wouldn't want anyone to take offense to the character and then claim defamation or invasion of privacy.

    1. Excellent point!

      I think if I used a name too like a friend's I would feel constrained to portray the character a certain way.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one with naming issues! :-)

  2. My WIP is set in a Vancouver of the future, so I went to and looked up random streets in Vancouver and wrote down all the names. Now when I need to name someone I can mix and match first and last names from the people who might be the ancestors of my character!


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