‘What’s in a name?’ Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. A good name can make or break a character. Finding a name that fits the character and personality, physical characteristics, and the mood of your book is hard. For me, they are times when names just pop up in my head, but mostly when I’m writing I’m left grasping for names.. You can only use names from your family and friends for so long before it gets repetitive. In my previous post about pseudonyms gave a lot of tips that can be used, but I thought it was high time that I make a more specific post.
I got five great tips that will make coming up with a name so much easier. Are you ready? Then let’s get to it!
Warning: You should% 100 cross-references and research the baby names independently. Some of these sites can be inaccurate or inconsistent.
1) Name Generators Are You Friends
A lot of writers overlook name generators because they either feel like it’s cheating or that the names that come out of these generators are garbage.
This is simply not true.
Name Generators in the last decade have up their game. My favorite name generator is Behind The Name Random Generator. Behind The Name is a website that is ALL about names. They have names from all over the world, and the site often breaks down the etymology and pronunciation of the name.
Their name generator is the best because it gives you tons of options from choosing gender if you want a rare name or if it is a diminutive of another name.
Another good name generator that I always use is the Seventh Sanctum Name Generators. Not only do they have a quick name generator, but this site is super helpful if you are writing Sci-fi and Fantasy. They have everything from Demon Names, Vampire Names, Angel Names, Elvish Names. I used the vampire name generator for my vampire book ‘Blood Right’.
2) Census Records
Every country in the world has census records. It’s usually free or very cheap to access, and if you are writing historical fiction, they are a freaking godsend. The U.S. Census lists the popular baby names for every decade. These lists go back to 1790. This is super helpful to you as a writer (especially if keeping everything historical accurate is a top priority for you) because name trends change from decade to decade.
If you want to name inspirations from further back, my suggestion is to check Ancestry.com. it’s a paid service, but I suggest using the free trial.
3) Baby Name Sites
I know when people think of baby name sites; they think of expectant parents desperately searching for a name for their new addition. However, I use these sites all the time, especially if I can’t find quite what I’m looking for with name generators. These sites often have themed lists which can save you a lot of time and the meaning of the name. Nameberry is my favorite site to use, but I also like to use Nymbler.
4) Religious and Historical Books
If your character is religious, a great place to look for baby names is to scan religious and historical books. Especially if that character’s religion matches your own, you can open up the Bible or the Quran. Historical books (both non-fiction or fiction) can be a great place to look for names. For my new short story ‘Buck Wild’, I took the names of my Character Ephriam Buckley and Jasper Wilkes from infamous cowboys. I just mixed up the first and last names.
You need to do that, especially if the name is copyrighted. You never want to take lift a full name that belongs to someone else.
5) Movie and TV Credits
Marvel made after credit scenes popular, and they trained moviegoers to watch the end of the credits. Until you hit that scene, you are just sitting there looking at a list of names for 5 to 10 minutes. Take out of your phone and start taking down names that call to you. Again, when using these names I would mix up the first and names so you don’t accidentally get sued.
Better safe than sorry, right?
Protip: I would suggest you keep this notebook with you all the time or hell use your phone. You never know when inspiration will strike.
These are my five tips to come up with unique character names. Do you have any tips? Let me know down in the comments.